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The Universal Flu Vaccine Could Be Here in 2 Years: Study

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine announced Wednesday that they were able to protect mice, rabbits, and ferrets from a few flu strains by changing how they attacked a flu virus’ protein structure.

“If it works in humans even half as well as it does in mice, then the sky’s the limit—it could be something that everyone uses in the future to protect themselves from the flu,” co-senior author Scott Hensley, an associate professor of microbiology, said in a press release about the report published in Nature Communications.

The next step involves testing in primates, then humans, and going through the Food and Drug Administration. Drew Weissman, a senior co-author,said he thinks the results are very promising, particularly because ferrets and rabbits—one step above mice in the vaccine testing model—responded well.

“We hope to be in human phase 1 clinical trials within two years,” he said.

That’s fast, primarily because using mRNA proteins makes pharmaceutical development less expensive and faster. “Current egg-based flu vaccines take nine months [from prediction to development],” Weissman pointed out. “With mRNA, a new vaccine could be produced in weeks in the event of a new influenza pandemic outbreak.”

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