Developing a Lifetime, Universal Influenza Vaccine

December 4, 2020
John Parkinson

Cincinnati, Ohio-based Blue Water Vaccines is working on developing a vaccine that will permanently protect against current and future influenza strains.

The genesis for Cincinnati, Ohio-based Blue Water Vaccines came from a paper that Joseph Hernandez, CEO, had read back in 2007. This paper written by a mathematician came up with a controversial theory that influenza was not as diverse as previously perceived, was highly immunogenic, and that a universal vaccine to cover all strains could be developed.

From this paper, Hernandez decided to reach out to Oxford University and see if they wanted to collaborate on creating a universal influenza vaccine.

After initially not hearing anything from the university, he followed up with the author of the paper. After speaking with the author, and much persistence with Oxford, Hernandez was able to form a relationship with both and they began working on a vaccine.

Blue Water Chief Scientific Officer Craig Thompson, PhD, was the lead investigator who developed the novel influenza vaccine, which was based on mathematical modeling and structural bioinformatics while working at the Jenner Institute and Peter Medawar Building for Pathogen Research at Oxford.

Blue Water licensed their universal influenza vaccine from Oxford University in 2019.

The vaccine targets parts of the virus that are easy to induce a protective immune response, but also limited, in variability. Blue Water identified several regions of limited variability which, if vaccinated against, enable protection against all influenza strains. The vaccine itself requires 2 doses to focus the immune response on the regions of limited variability, providing potentially life-long protection against the flu.

This concept of a universal, influenza vaccine offering permanent immunity could potentially be a real gamer changer, especially as approximately only 50% of adults get flu vaccines annually. And in today's medical climate of COVID-19, addressing the flu, which exhibits similar symptoms would be helpful to both patients and providers.

Additionally, Blue Water Vaccines recently announced the acceleration on the development of a vaccine candidate to combat the recently discovered G4 EA H1N1, which is very similar to the 2009 A(H1N1) swine flu.

It was discovered in China in July 2020 and has been classified as a potential pandemic causing influenza strain. The company is also moving forward with a Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) vaccine candidate, designed to specifically prevent middle ear infections in children.

Hernandez sat down to speak with Contagion® about their pre-clinical trial findings on their influenza vaccine, how it will be able to work on even future strains of the flu, and their timeline for development and impending studies. He also spoke about their emerging Streptococcus vaccine and how it differentiates itself from others in the market.