The NIH is enrolling volunteers in an early-stage trial for an mRNA-based universal flu vaccine


The National Institutes of Health is now enrolling participants to test an experimental universal influenza vaccine using mRNA technology.

The NIH is looking for 50 volunteers ages 18 to 49 for the Phase 1 trial at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

“A universal influenza vaccine would be a major public health achievement and could eliminate the need for both annual development of seasonal influenza vaccines, as well as the need for patients to get a flu shot each year,” said Acting NIAID Director Dr. Hugh Auchincloss in a news release. “Moreover, some strains of influenza virus have significant pandemic potential. A universal flu vaccine could serve as an important line of defense against the spread of a future flu pandemic.”

This early-stage trial will evaluate the best dosage for the experimental vaccine while comparing its immunogenicity and safety to current seasonal flu vaccines. Participants in the trial will be followed for up to one year after vaccination to primarily track its safety, but efficacy as well.

Between 2010 and 2020, there have been between 140,000 to 710,000 people hospitalized and between 12,000 to 52,000 deaths from the flu annually, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are several universal flu vaccines in various stages of development and testing. The shots use the same mRNA technology that’s in the Covid-19 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but scientists first started on these experiments in 2017, years before the first Covid-19 shots were given.