Towards a universal influenza vaccine: volunteer virus challenge studies in quarantine to speed the development and subsequent licensing


  • John S. Oxford

    1. Blizard Institute of Cell and Molecular Science, Bart's and the London and Retroscreen Virology Ltd, Queen Mary's BioEnterprises, Innovation Centre, London, UK
    Search for more papers by this author


Professor John Oxford, Retroscreen Virology, Queen Mary, BioEnterprises, Innovation Centre, 42 New Road, London E1 2AX, UK.

Tel.: +0207-756-1300

Fax: +0203-070-0086



There are now more than 5 experimental vaccine formulations which induce T and B cell immunity towards the internally situated virus proteins matrix (M1 and M2e) and nucleoprotein (NP), and towards stem and stalk regions of the HA which have a shared antigenic structure amongst many of the 17 influenza A virus sub types. Such ‘universal vaccines’ could be used, at least in theory, as a prophylactic stockpile vaccine for newly emerged epidemic and novel pandemic influenza A viruses or as a supplement to conventional HA/NA vaccines. My own laboratory has approached the problem from the clinical viewpoint by identifying CD4+ cells which are present in influenza infected volunteers who resist influenza infection. We have established precisely which peptides in M and NP proteins react with these immune CD4 cells. These experimental vaccines induce immunity in animal models but with a single exception no data have been published on protection against influenza virus infection in humans. The efficacy of the latter vaccine is based on vaccinia virus (MVA) as a carrier and was analyzed in a quarantine unit. Given the absence of induced HI antibody in the new universal vaccines a possible licensing strategy is a virus challenge model in quarantine whereby healthy volunteers can be immunized with the new vaccine and thereafter deliberately infected and clinical signs recorded alongside quantities of virus excreted and compared with unvaccinated controls.