The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office has funded Professor Derek Smith and his research group to develop methods of antigenic mapping – or forecasting how the influenza viruses may change over time. Influenza antigenic mapping could improve the vaccine’s match to evolving H5N1 and other potential pandemic influenza viruses so that vaccines generate protective immune responses not only to currently circulating influenza viruses, but also to newly emerging ones. The H5N1 virus is found in birds and occasionally is transmitted from birds to humans.
Influenza viruses frequently change, creating challenges in producing a vaccine that stimulates broad, long-lasting immunity against influenza. Understanding how a virus can change will help vaccine developers produce vaccines that will be more effective.
Building on Cambridge’s earlier work supported by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, the research team will use the antigenic mapping approach to determine how effective each of these H5N1 vaccines are likely to be. The group will demonstrate the utility of this predictive analytical method by preparing experimental vaccine candidates that are based on antigenic mapping results to inform the design and development of more effective than the currently licensed pandemic vaccines against a broad range of current and projected future H5N1 viruses.
The project is funded for five years.