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Flu (Influenza)

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Optimizing Vaccines and Vaccine Production

Cell Culture-based Vaccine Production

Cell culture-based vaccine production involves growing the flu virus in living cells, instead of in eggs. Almost every vaccine currently available to provide protection against viruses, including mumps, measles, rubella, and polio, is made using the cell-culture based method. However, there are special challenges that have delayed development of a cell culture-based influenza vaccine. For example, it has taken a long time to produce both a sufficient virus yield and good quality virus using this approach. As a result, new cell lines and new approaches to creating cell culture-based influenza vaccine are being examined.

The first generation of cell culture-based influenza vaccines are currently licensed for use in Europe, but are not yet licensed in the United States. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has encouraged and supported multiple manufacturing efforts to develop cell-based influenza vaccines here in the U.S.

This technology could improve influenza vaccine production by increasing reliability and in some cases, enhancing the growth of the virus. Compared to egg-based flu vaccine production, the cell culture process is more controlled and several weeks faster. Additionally, cell-based vaccine production allows for more rapid expansion and scale-up of vaccine during an emergency situation than egg-based vaccine production. Also, influenza vaccines produced using cell-culture based technologies could be used by people who have egg allergies.

Influenza Vaccine Production: Cell Culture as an Alternative to Chicken Eggs
Caption: Influenza Vaccine Production: Cell Culture as an Alternative to Chicken Eggs

Dose Optimization – Adjuvants

An adjuvant is a substance used in a vaccine to boost the immune response and lessen the amount of antigen needed. Adjuvants used in influenza vaccines are known to widen the breadth of the immune response, so that there is more cross-reactivity. Because adjuvants cause an inflammatory immune response, people who are vaccinated with these types of vaccines tend to have more instances of soreness in the arm at the site of injection and fever. There are number of new adjuvants that NIAID-supported researchers are exploring, such as nanoemulsions, immunostimulatory oligonucleotides, polysaccharides, complexes of DNA and liposomes, small molecules and other novel bacterial and host proteins.

Last Updated January 14, 2011

Last Reviewed November 18, 2010