• Press Release

Mount Sinai to Lead Universal Flu Vaccine Design

NIH contract award of up to $132 million will further ongoing efforts to develop a long-lasting vaccine

  • New York, NY
  • (September 30, 2019)

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have received a contract award of up to $132 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as part of a new Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Centers (CIVICs) program to further develop the universal flu vaccine.

The Icahn School of Medicine and Emory University will form a joint vaccine center that will become part of the large CIVICs network of research centers. The total funding for the Mount Sinai-Emory Multi-Institutional Vaccine Center will be distributed over the next seven years. CIVICs will work together in a coordinated multidisciplinary effort to develop more durable, broadly protective, and longer-lasting influenza vaccines.

2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the devastating 1918 H1N1 pandemic, which claimed at least 40 million lives. A century later, influenza viruses continue to be a global public health concern claiming up to 650,000 lives every year, according to the World Health Organization. Seasonal influenza causes millions of hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 79,000 deaths in the United States each year.

“We are in a race to produce a vaccine that will protect populations across the globe,” said Florian Krammer, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and co-Principal Investigator. “The influenza virus is constantly changing each year, and spreads readily from person to person. With each new strain comes a new formulation that we hope will match and protect against that strain. If we are successful, and I know we will be, we will develop a vaccine that provides universal protections against each new strain. I am confident we will get there.”

The Mount Sinai-Emory Multi-Institutional Vaccine Center will be co-led by Dr. Krammer and Rafi Ahmed, PhD, co-Principal Investigator, Director of the Emory Vaccine Center, and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Emory University’s School of Medicine.

“The challenge with influenza infection is that the virus is changing continuously and when a pandemic strain emerges that is strikingly different, protection from the seasonal influenza vaccine is very minimal,” says Dr. Ahmed.  “The goal of this CIVICs grant is to develop a Universal Influenza Vaccine that would protect us not only from the currently circulating influenza virus strains but also from pandemic strains that may emerge in the future.”

“Synergistic teams”
The Mount Sinai-Emory Multi-Institutional Vaccine Center will include a team of experts from diverse disciplines encompassing vaccinology, virology, immunology, biochemistry, structural biology, pathology, veterinary medicine, virus evolution, bioinformatics, and epidemiology. The Center will focus on two research areas: vaccine design and development (designing, optimizing, and selecting vaccine candidates, delivery technologies, and adjuvants) and immunology analysis (test vaccine candidates in preclinical models in immunogenicity and challenge studies). The aim is to develop improved seasonal and universal influenza virus vaccines that induce long-lasting protection against seasonal strains, influenza viruses that spread from animals to humans, and future pandemic influenza viruses. The Center will also study mechanisms of immune protection against pathogen acquisition, disease, and transmission, informing the rational design and testing of improved influenza vaccines.

A scientific leadership group will guide the large-scale research project. Institution partners include Emory University, Scripps Research Institute in California, La Jolla Institute of Immunology (also California), the University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, Washington University, Yale School of Medicine, the University of Chicago, the University of Wisconsin, The Wistar Institute, Rockefeller University, Stanford University and PATH.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with 48,000 employees working across eight hospitals, more than 400 outpatient practices, more than 600 research and clinical labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time—discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 9,000 primary and specialty care physicians and 11 free-standing joint-venture centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida. Hospitals within the System are consistently ranked by Newsweek’s® “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals, Best in State Hospitals, World Best Hospitals and Best Specialty Hospitals” and by U.S. News & World Report's® “Best Hospitals” and “Best Children’s Hospitals.” The Mount Sinai Hospital is on the U.S. News & World Report® “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll for 2023-2024.

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