An intranasal RNA vaccine for pandemic influenza is being developed by the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) under a contract with BARDA’s “Beyond the Needle” program.

IDRI is a nonprofit biotech organization located in Seattle, Washington that combines high-quality scientific research with product development and manufacturing capabilities to help combat some of the world’s deadliest diseases, including COVID-19.

Beyond the Needle funds the development of new technologies to make vaccine and therapeutic administration easier, to ultimately create globally accessible vaccines. The development of an intranasally administered flu vaccine using IDRI’s RNA vaccine platform could improve RNA vaccine protection against respiratory viruses, remove the need for the deep cold chain that makes RNA vaccines inaccessible to low-and-middle income countries (LMICs), and alleviate fears in needle-hesitant individuals. BARDA entered into a contract with IDRI for the development of an intranasal RNA vaccine platform with long-term storage stability using H5N1 influenza as an initial proof-of-concept target.

“IDRI’s RNA platform has enhanced stability compared to current RNA vaccines, which directly addresses the challenges of cold chain distribution, allowing for increased access to vaccines in places where freezers and even refrigeration are not always readily available,” said Alana Gerhardt, PhD, Senior Manager of Process Development, who will support optimizing the vaccine platform for thermostability and intranasal delivery.

“Intranasal administration of RNA vaccines may offer improved protection against respiratory pathogens – as well as easier administration and potentially higher uptake rates – relative to injected vaccines,” said Emily Voigt, PhD, Senior Manager of the RNA program. “Potent vaccines combined with ease of administration, even by non-trained medical staff, and increased stability means we can more quickly reach more people and offer the protection needed from respiratory viruses, regardless of where you live.”

IDRI will deliver results of its BARDA-funded research as project milestones are met throughout the 2-year contract. IDRI plans to build on this work to make potent RNA vaccines cheaper and easier to manufacture, store, ship, and administer across the world.