Flu vaccines are updated every year to match the evolving strains of the influenze virus, but researchers hope to develop a universal vaccine that would be effective against all strains.

Rose MiyatsuUCSC | January 9, 2020

The current flu season is shaping up to be a particularly severe one, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting 2,900 deaths from flu as of the end of December. Vaccines offer protection from this threat, but getting the flu vaccine every year can be a hassle, and many adults go without it. In fact, the CDC estimates that only about 37% of the adult population received the flu vaccine in 2018, a decline from previous years.

But what if people only needed to be vaccinated once to receive many years of protection? This type of “universal vaccine” is what Rebecca DuBois, assistant professor of biomolecular engineering at UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering, calls the “holy grail for influenza,” and it may be closer than you think.

DuBois is part of the Center for Influenza Virus Research for High Risk Populations (CIVR-HRP), a research group led by the University of Georgia that is working to develop a universal flu vaccine. The center is part of the new Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Centers (CIVICs) program funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The University of Georgia has received an initial award that could total as much as $130 million if all contract options are exercised. DuBois’ role on the project, funded by an initial $1.5 million sub-award, will use structural biology to visualize the vaccine candidates that are being designed by her collaborators in the group.


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