The Wistar Institute Obtains Patent For Universal Flu Vaccine Technology

The Wistar Institute Obtains Patent For Universal Flu Vaccine Technology

May 5, 2009

(PHILADELPHIA – May 6, 2009) – The Wistar Institute today obtained a U.S. patent for a novel synthetic vaccine technology with the potential for further development into a universal flu vaccine which could eliminate the need for annual flu shots and protect against future flu pandemics.

U.S. Patent 75,227,798, “Composition and Method for Preventing or Treating a Virus Infection” covers a variety of peptides that are capable of inducing broad protection against all strains of influenza A virus.

One major limitation of current influenza vaccines is that they provide protection against only the virus strain contained in the vaccine. Each year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection tries to predict which strain of influenza will be most prevalent in the coming year, and then vaccine manufacturers use that strain to produce the annual flu vaccine.

Current flu vaccines trigger an immune response to a pair of prominent viral-coat proteins that mutate constantly, which is the reason last year's flu vaccine is ineffective against this year's flu strains. As a result, people must receive annual flu immunizations to be protected against the strain expected to circulate each year.

The Wistar vaccine prototype targets a more stable region of the virus. It contains an engineered peptide that mimics a third, smaller viral-coat protein called M2 that remains largely constant from year to year. A vaccine that induces immunity to M2 has the potential to protect against all strains of influenza A.

“A successful M2 vaccine has the potential to eliminate both the need for annual flu vaccinations as well as the manufacturing and supply problems associated with the development of annual flu vaccines that are effective against only one strain of the virus,” said Meryle Melnicoff, Ph.D., director of business development for The Wistar Institute. 

In preclinical studies by the Wistar inventors, Walter Gerhard, M.D., and Laszlo Otvos, Ph.D., the experimental vaccine was administered intranasally to mice. After vaccination, a steep rise in M2-specific antibodies was seen in blood samples from the mice, and the mice exhibited protection against influenza virus infection of  the respiratory tract. The findings were published in the June 2, 2003 issue of the journal Vaccine.

The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the country, Wistar has long held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute. The Institute works actively to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible. The Wistar Institute: Today’s Discoveries – Tomorrow’s Cures. On the Web at

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