The American Lung Association Research Institute announced a three-year, $500,000 grant to Texas Biomedical Research Institute to help accelerate its efforts to develop a universal flu vaccine.
This is the first Accelerator Program investment that the association has made since it launched the American Lung Association Research Institute earlier this year.
“The influenza virus is constantly changing. Current influenza vaccines help protect people against the flu, but the vaccine is not as effective if the flu strains in the vaccine don’t match those that are circulating that season,” says Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, in a release. “This is why we are proud to support and accelerate the work of the vaccine researchers at Texas Biomed who are working on a flu vaccine that protects against changing flu strains.”
Each year before flu season, scientists must predict which influenza strains are most likely to be prevalent in the upcoming months and select three or four of these strains to be included in that season’s flu vaccine. While this strategy has been effective in significantly reducing severe flu illness, the disease continues to be a significant health burden. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were between 27-54 million influenza illnesses and between 19,000 and 58,000 deaths due to the flu.
“Our goal is to come up with a universal vaccine that will immunize people against all influenza strains, with long-lasting protection to potentially eliminate the need for yearly shots. Although current flu vaccines have helped reduce the number of people who die from the virus, a universal vaccine would protect more people every year,” says Luis Martinez-Sobrido, PhD, professor at Texas Biomed in San Antonio, who is leading the research, in a release. “This partnership with the American Lung Association enables us to move quickly with this vaccine research.”
This funding was provided by the American Lung Association Research Institute, which launched in March to address the urgent and critical lung health challenges in the United States. The Accelerator Program collaborates with government, non-profits, and private industry to dramatically accelerate existing research to revolutionize lung health discovery and innovation.