After more than 10 years of development, a Madison company is preparing for the release of a new flu vaccine that would immunize against a wide range of strains of the illness.
The vaccine works as universal protection against a wide range of flu strains, according to Paul Radspinner, co-founder and chief executive officer of Flu-Gen.
The M2SR, or REDEE FLU, vaccine works by infecting the nasal canal with a live virus and priming the immune system for any flu attack, Radspinner said. Current less effective vaccine methods inject a dead virus into the patient’s arms, he said.
“The problem is, if you think about the way you are actually infected is the flu virus enters the nasal membranes and throat, and that is where it takes hold and replicates,” Radspinner said. “The reason there is bad results in the effectiveness of current flu vaccines is that you are injecting a virus that’s dead into the wrong part of the body.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, this year’s flu vaccine was only 9 percent effective among patients 65 and older. Radspinner emphasized the importance of the effect on this age group, due to their vulnerability to influenza complications such as pneumonia that could even lead to death.
Craig Roberts, University Health Services epidemiologist, said for most individuals, influenza is a mild illness they easily recover from. He said the issue for college students is staying home and missing class.
In the US, there are 20,000 to 30,000 cases of hospitalization and death due to influenza, mostly due to underlying conditions, Roberts said.
The development of this vaccine comes at a time when the H7N9 avian influenza virus has been spreading in China, Radspinner said. A universally effective flu vaccine could be a solution to such a disease as it protects against a wide range of flu strains, he added.
The vaccine is scheduled to begin clinical trials this summer, with further testing to be conducted on humans, Radspinner said. The goal of the company is to finish the process within the next five years and they hope to have it on the market by 2019, he said.