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FLUPLAN (closed)

fluplanFLUPLAN aimed to mitigate the next influenza pandemic by the development of novel intervention strategies against future pandemic influenza viruses, coordinated by the Department of Virology at Erasmus MC Rotterdam. More specifically, FLUPLAN aimed to establish a repository of influenza viruses from the animal world, with pandemic potential and to make an inventory of such influenza viruses that can be used for the preparation of pandemic vaccines that are vector-based using modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA).

With this, the vaccine repository will contain vaccine candidates that are "ready to go" on the shelf, for the rapid production of broadly protective pandemic vaccines that are available from the very beginning of the pandemic. This will greatly expand our ability to develop and produce novel vaccines within a shorter timeframe and with increased efficacy to mitigate the next influenza pandemic.

With FLUPLAN, a hemagglutinin (HA) vaccine repository was developed that is continuously being updated with representative virus strains that match circulating Influenza viruses coming from the animal world, that have pandemic potential. This has amongst others led to the development of a MVA-H5 vaccine candidate, which proved to be safe (no serious adverse events were identified) and immunogenic (MVA-H5 vaccine induced virus neutralizing antibodies against influenza H5N1 virus) in a clinical phase I/IIa trial. Furthermore, we confirmed that the MVA-H5 vaccine can elicit antibodies against the newly emerging H5N8 virus, especially after a booster vaccination.

Based on this repository, in combination with the clinical trial experience with the MVA-H5 vaccine candidate (as described in Kreijtz et al., The Lancet Infectious Diseases), it will be possible to rapidly develop a MVA-based influenza vaccine for human use in the face of a future pandemic. This will spark a rapid response to a newly emerging pandemic influenza threat, by using a priming vaccination with an MVA-based vaccine that represents the HA gene of the same subtype as the emerging virus and will upon booster immunization provide broadly protective immunity within the subtype, and thus against the emerging influenza virus strain. Thus, the MVA-based vaccine platform developed within FLUPLAN can be used for rapid development of efficacious and broadly protective vaccines in response to a future influenza pandemic threat.

Furthermore, the MVA technology as developed in FLUPLAN is now also being used to develop a more universal influenza vaccine within the framework of the EU FP7 funded project FLUNIVAC. The progress of this project largely builds on the technology developed within FLUPLAN, and the products of this exercise will also largely profit from the clinical trial expertise from the FLUPLAN clinical trial. This will lead to the rapid implementation of a more universal influenza vaccine for humans based on the MVA technology.