UChicago-led effort receives Grand Challenges Grant for research developing universal influenza vaccine

Patrick Wilson, PhD, professor of medicine (Section of Rheumatology) and a group of researchers from three other institutions have received a Grand Challenge for Universal Influenza Vaccine Development grant – a $12 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Flu Lab. The group will receive up to $2 million over two years to pursue an innovative research project that will help develop a flu vaccine that protects broadly against many strains of the virus.

Wilson heads a collaborative effort including four other research teams led by Sarah Cobey, PhD, associate professor of ecology and evolution at UChicago; Florian Krammer from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Jesse Bloom from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center; and Ian Wilson and Andrew Ward from the Scripps Research Institute.

Their project, called MOsaic Natural Selective Targeting of Immune Responses (MONSTIR), is a new approach to create a universal flu vaccine from a combination, or mosaic, of proteins from different segments of multiple virus strains. The vaccine’s makeup will be based on actual human immune responses to flu epidemics over the past several years. Since flu viruses mutate and change from year to year, the researchers will focus on strains where antibodies bind to more conserved or protected sites of the virus that are less likely to change over time. This includes hemagglutinin and neuraminidase proteins, two common targets for vaccine research, from both common human flu strains and zoonotic strains, or those that cross over from animals and spread to human populations.


Originally published in The Forefront, 9/16/2019