NIAID greenlights funds for adjuvant research

National Institutes of Health sign

Adjuvants can be added to improve vaccine effectiveness, but "very little" is known about the molecular mechanisms by which they work, according to the National Institutes of Health. Now, the NIH is committing millions in research funding in an effort to better understand adjuvant combinations as part of an effort to promote adjuvant discovery and development.

The NIAID awarded 6 grants on Monday totaling $3.1 million to researchers studying vaccine adjuvant combinations, hoping that the knowledge gained can improve vaccine design as well as assist research into diseases for which there aren't vaccines. The program hopes to define the molecular and immunological mechanisms that allow adjuvant combinations to strengthen vaccines.

The NIAID, which has adopted a Strategic Plan for Research on Vaccine Adjuvants, calls work in the area a "high priority."

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Existing adjuvants have encountered resistance in the U.S. as the public and some officials have raised concerns over ingredients such as the preservative thimerosal. However, companies see the value in adjuvants as some groups with weak immune systems sometimes need stronger vaccines.

The NIH funds will go to the Children's Hospital Corporation in Boston; Tulane University; Georgia Institute of Technology; University of Wisconsin, Madison; UC Irvine, and the Jackson Laboratory in Farmington, CT.

Late last year, the FDA approved for adults over the age of 65 the U.S.' first public adjuvanted flu vaccine, Fluad, which Seqirus is prepping to launch. According to the CDC, two vaccine adjuvants are currently used publicly. Aluminum gels or aluminum salts have been used in some U.S. vaccines for decades, the CDC says, while monophosphoryl lipid A has been used in GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Cervarix since 2009.

Prior to its U.S. approval, Fluad was first licensed in Italy in 1997 and has been used widely in 38 countries in recent years.

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