Universal flu vaccine to be tested in Indonesia

9 Dec 2010

Australia and Indonesia are collaborating to produce and trial a universal flu vaccine.

New technology, invented by Dr Mohammed Alsharifi of the University of Adelaide) and Professor Arno Müllbacher  of the Australian National University, has helped to generate a new influenza vaccine, GammaFlu, that provides cross-protection against current influenza viruses as well as any other unknown strains that may arise in the future.

"The frequent arising of new influenza strains represents the greatest challenge to health authorities as it renders currently available vaccines ineffective," says Dr Mohammed Alsharifi, the Head of the Vaccine Research Group at the School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, University of Adelaide.

"While annual vaccine reformulation appears to be effective against closely matched strains of influenza, the current method is not effective against drifted strains as well as new pandemic strains, as illustrated by the recent H1N1 pandemic. This raises the need for a new technology," he says.

Dr Alsharifi says the recent experience of swine flu and the continuing fears of the medical, scientific and world health communities of the sudden emergence of a deadly bird flu strain, means that a new approach to flu vaccines needs to be contemplated.

"What we need is some protection against all influenza virus A strains, including any emergent pandemic virus," he says.

"Our technology is expected to change the world of vaccination, as it can be implemented to produce many other vaccines," Dr Alsharifi says.

To translate their basic scientific discoveries into clinical application, both scientists established the company Gamma Vaccines Pty Ltd in July 2009. Gamma Vaccines is now commercializing its gamma-irradiated influenza vaccine to capture part of the global market for flu vaccines, which is estimated at US$4 billion annually.

Since its establishment, the company has devised a significant global health initiative as part of its commercialization plans, aimed at making its technology available to developing countries.

"As our near neighbours, with a population of over 240 million, Indonesia represents an exciting opportunity to take this technology from the laboratory to the people," Dr Alsharifi says.

Gamma Vaccines has now signed a memorandum of understanding with Indonesian pharmaceutical companies PT Bio Farma and PT Soho Industri Pharmasi, establishing a three-way collaboration that will see the development, manufacturing, clinical trials and distribution of the vaccine in Indonesia and other ASEAN countries.

As part of the collaboration, a team of scientists from PT Bio Farma (the Indonesian State-owned vaccine manufacturer) will be trained in various aspects of the new technology, including production, safety and quality control. This training will be held in the Vaccine Research Laboratory at the University of Adelaide.


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