Officials from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have outlined a new strategic plan for creating a safe and effective universal flu vaccine.

Advances in influenza virology, immunology and vaccinology make the development of a universal flu vaccine more feasible than a decade ago, according to the authors.

To develop a universal flu vaccine, NIAID will focus resources on three key areas of influenza research:

  1. Improving the understanding of the transmission, natural history and pathogenesis of influenza infection;
  2. Precisely characterizing how protective influenza immunity occurs and how to tailor vaccination responses to achieve it; and
  3. Supporting the rational design of universal influenza vaccines, including designing new immunogens and adjuvants to boost immunity and extend the duration of protection.

The authors state that a coordinated effort of guided discovery, facilitated product development and managed progress through iterative clinical testing will be critical to achieving the goal of a universal flu vaccine.

NIAID will establish and support a consortium of scientists to meet designated goals for a universal flu vaccine and will expand the Institute’s research resources by establishing long-term human cohorts, supporting improved animal models of influenza infection and expanding capacity for conducting human challenge studies.

The authors emphasize that broad collaboration and coordination in many disciplines and involving government, academia, philanthropies and the private sector will be vital to achieving the goal of developing a universal flu vaccine. NIAID intends for the plan to serve as the foundation for its research investment strategy to achieve this important public health goal.