Texas Tech Researchers Looking For 'Universal' Flu Vaccine

Alan Scaia
January 15, 2019 - 7:47 am
Flu Vaccine

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DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - A team of researchers at Texas Tech has won a grant to try to develop a flu vaccine that would not require shots every year.

The group has earned a $3.46 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.

"The objective is to actually have a formulation that doesn't change," says Harvinder Gill, a chemical engineering professor at Texas Tech. "It'd be like the vaccine for Hepatitis B and other vaccines that are more standardized."

Gill says his team is studying which parts of the flu virus stay the same each year.

"I like to give the analogy of Lego blocks," he says. "You have these Lego pieces. You have standard blocks, but how you build them up with the remaining blocks is unique."

Gill says identifying those nanoparticles will help researchers figure out which parts of the virus stay the same from year to year.​ He says the group has started experiments, and tests on animals have shown greater protection against different strains of flu.

"We have shown that if we actually take the same flu vaccine, we can actually show protection against the 2009 pandemic, even against bird flu strains that haven't yet hit us but researchers think could be the next pandemic," he says.

Gill does not have a timetable to develop a universal flu vaccine, but he says the grant will help his group continue research and could give the team time to start clinical trials.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 9.3 and 49 million people have been infected with flu each year since 2010. The flu has killed 12,000 to 79,000 people each year.​