A new method for making flu vaccines using cell culture may aid in the mass production of vaccines for seasonal flu and avian influenza.

Technology to produce flu vaccines using mammalian cell cultures already exists, but in its current form is less efficient than making vaccines in eggs.

The new high-yield method was devised by Yoshihiro Kawaoka’s group before the federal government imposed a moratorium on such work in October 2014. Contributing significantly to the work was Jihui Ping, a research scientist in the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Depending on the strain, we can get between a twofold and tenfold increase in production using mammalian cells,” Kawaoka says. “Even a twofold increase is substantial for vaccine production.”

In addition to sidestepping the limitations of egg-based vaccine production, the technology is potentially more nimble as vaccine production can be altered or ramped up more easily. “You can scale up cell-based vaccine production very quickly,” explains Kawaoka, one of the world’s foremost experts on influenza.

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