Antibody vaccine may be key to conquering flu

A key breakthrough in flu vaccine research has been attracting considerable attention in recent days. As we reported earlier in FierceBioResearcher, antibodies may prove to be a very effective guard against flu viruses. And some in-depth reporting on the subject helps illustrate just how important an advance this is.

Every year experts gather together and tweak the world's flu vaccines. And every year, they're usually a little wrong or way off the mark, as the virus continually evolves to protect itself. Now, though, new research is shedding light on a common approach that could not only guard against all types of seasonal flu, but also bird flu and other pandemic breeds.

Harvard's Wayne Marasco has attracted considerable attention for his insights on the flu. He concluded that a relative handful of antibodies bind to the ‘stalk' of the virus. Vaccine today is designed to influence the flu's main, and constantly changing, surface protein. So Marasco has tested the concept on mice and found that the antibodies that do bind to the stalk cured and protected mice from two types of bird flu. Now the team is planning to test a stalk antibody as a vaccine which will spur the production of more such protective antibodies.

One key advantage to an antibody vaccine, researchers say, is that the stalk doesn't seem to change much. That means a new vaccine could be stockpiled and used around the world with a high likelihood of success. And in the event of a pandemic, it could prove crucial to protecting large populations.

- check out the report from New Scientist