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Keywords:

  • hemagglutinin;
  • influenza;
  • pandemic;
  • vaccine;
  • virus-like particles

Summary

During the last decade, the spectre of an influenza pandemic of avian origin has led to a revision of national and global pandemic preparedness plans and has stressed the need for more efficient influenza vaccines and manufacturing practices. The 2009 A/H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak has further emphasized the necessity to develop new solutions for pandemic influenza vaccines. Influenza virus-like particles (VLPs)—non-infectious particles resembling the influenza virus—represent a promising alternative to inactivated and split-influenza virions as antigens, and they have shown uniqueness by inducing a potent immune response through both humoral and cellular components of the immune system. Our group has developed a plant-based transient influenza VLP manufacturing platform capable of producing influenza VLPs with unprecedented speed. Influenza VLP expression and purification technologies were brought to large-scale production of GMP-grade material, and pre-clinical studies have demonstrated that low doses of purified, plant-produced influenza VLPs induce a strong and broad immune response in mice and ferrets. This review positions the recent developments towards the successful production of influenza VLPs in plants, including the production of VLPs from other human viruses and other forms of influenza antigens. The platform developed for large-scale production of VLPs is also presented along with an assessment of the speed of the platform to produce the first experimental vaccine lots from the identification of a new influenza strain.