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University of Minnesota researchers call for better flu vaccine

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Researchers at the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy claim current influenza vaccines offer less protection against the infectious disease than previously thought, and better ones are necessary.

A report titled "The Compelling Need for Game-Changing Influenza Vaccines" says the U.S.-licensed trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine does not differ widely from the one first developed in 1968. And a live-attenuated influenza vaccine licensed in 2003 is made using techniques from the 1930s, Fox reports.

So why hasn't a new flu vaccine come along? The financial risks and inadequate incentives throw up roadblocks for most biotechs that might otherwise show interest. The entire process--from preclinical research through licensure--can take up to 15 years and cost more than $1 billion, the report says. A novel flu vaccine providing protection over the course of several years will need to cost more per dose than current vaccines for investors and manufacturers to realize the financial benefit of the endeavor.

And many believe the current flu vaccines offer enough protection. "A major barrier to the development of game-changing influenza vaccines is the perception that current vaccines are already highly effective in preventing influenza infection," the report says.

Currently, 6 companies are licensed to produce and distribute flu vaccines in the U.S.: CSL, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), ID Biomedical, AstraZeneca's ($AZN) MedImmune, Novartis ($NVS) and Sanofi Pasteur. This year, a total of 135 million doses of influenza vaccine will be on hand. Each year, between 3,000 and 49,000 Americans die from seasonal influenza.

- see the full report (PDF)
- here's more from Fox
- check out the Pioneer Press' take

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