Virginia Tech virologist developing more potent vaccine technology

Virginia Tech virologist Chris Roberts’ goal is to develop a platform for a flu vaccine that allows rapid modifications to meet new strains of flu.

Flu VaccineBlacksburg, Va. – Virginia Tech virologist Chris Roberts’ goal is to develop a platform for a flu vaccine that allows rapid modifications to meet new strains of flu.

Since 90 percent of complicated flu cases occur among those over 65, the associate professor in biomedical sciences and pathobiology (http://www.vetmed.vt.edu/org/dbsp/) has been working on a novel flu vaccine for the elderly. That is still his aim, but he is now more motivated than ever to speed development of his cell culture-based vaccine technology that is more rapid than the egg-based growth system presently used to create vaccines.

Influenza is an enveloped virus. It obtains its envelope or membrane as it buds from the surface of the host cell it has invaded. Roberts is using this practice against the virus – introducing membrane-bound immune-system stimulatory molecules such as cytokines into cells in such a way that the virus will incorporate them as part of its envelope. "Using this approach, inactivated influenza vaccines can be created that have enhanced immunogenicity, meaning they can boost our immune response to the vaccine and hopefully provide better protection against invading viruses," Roberts said.

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