Combining Epitope-Based Vaccine Design with Informatics-Based Evaluation to Obtain a Universal Influenza Vaccine

The Problem
Every year, an estimated 291,000 to 646,000 people worldwide die from seasonal influenza-related respiratory illnesses. Currently, the effectiveness of seasonal influenza vaccines ranges from 20% to 60%.
The Solution
This project employs the expertise of the NIAID Vaccine Research Center to identify, develop, and test antigen structures to nominate vaccine candidates that induce protection against all influenza virus strains.


In response to the 100-year anniversary of the 1918 influenza pandemic, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) issued a Grand Challenge to identify novel and transformative approaches that will accelerate the development of universal flu vaccines. Leveraging novel strategies that were successfully employed in the development of HIV vaccine candidates, this project aims to develop a universal flu vaccine for all strains of flu—including all currently circulating strains and those that emerge in the future. The universal epitope-based flu vaccine involves attaching antibodies to cell antigen molecules, called epitopes, which produce an immune response to invading pathogens in the individual. When developed, this universal vaccine will protect people of all ages against influenza for three or more years after vaccination, dramatically reducing the frequency of flu shots while increasing protection. Scientists from NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center and Columbia University are collaborating to combine expertise in molecular virology, structural biology, and human clinical studies to identify and implement transformative concepts in vaccine development. Success in this endeavor has the potential to save hundreds of millions of lives during the next flu pandemic.


*Provided financial support

FNIH Contacts

David Brown, Director, Vaccine Discovery and Development, [email protected]

Rebeca Salmeron, Project Manager, [email protected]



Develop prototypic universal influenza vaccine candidates that have enhanced breadth and efficacy over current influenza vaccine approaches.

Results and accomplishments

Bioinformatic analysis of the influenza virus genome has identified several stable structures in the hemagglutinin protein that are now being evaluated as candidate vaccine antigens. These antigens can induce specific B cell lineages to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies. Next steps include facilitating small animal and non-human primate challenge studies.

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