The National Institutes of Health recently established a new research network, Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Centers (CIVICs), with the collective goal to overcome current problems facing influenza vaccines in order to create long-lasting, broadly protective vaccines. The CIVICs program will include three Vaccine Centers, one Vaccine Manufacturing and Toxicology Core, two Clinical Cores, and one Statistical, Data Management, and Coordination Center.
Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group was chosen to partner with one of the three vaccine centers – a collaboration between the University of Georgia and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. An additional 12 institutions will join to create the Center for Influenza Vaccine Research for High Risk Populations.
“The flu vaccine is our best defense against influenza, however there is room for improvement. This is especially true in the very young, the elderly, and in those with conditions that weaken their immune system,” says Richard B. Kennedy, Ph.D., co-director of Mayo’s Vaccine Research Group and the Mayo Clinic principal investigator with the new Center for Influenza Vaccine Research for High Risk Populations.
“My lab has a long-standing interest in the effects of aging on the immune system and our contribution to the consortium will be to evaluate immunosenescence in each of the human cohorts recruited across the center and investigate its effect on the immune response to different influenza vaccines,” says Dr. Kennedy. (Immunosenescence refers to the natural reduction in immune system capabilities due to aging.)
“When we talk about universal influenza vaccines, we typically mean a vaccine that protects against all strains of influenza,” continues Dr. Kennedy. “However, it is just as important to have a vaccine that is universally effective in all patient populations, and that is our end goal.”
NIH’s vision is to bring together experts, universities, and medical centers in a coordinated, interdisciplinary effort to develop more effective influenza vaccines. This multidisciplinary, collaborative approach is in keeping with the Mayo Model of Research, in which research efforts all support a primary goal to answer unmet patient needs.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control website for key facts about influenza.