The World Health Organization (WHO) recently outlined its key approaches for the prevention of seasonal influenza infections and preparations for severe pandemic influenza outbreaks.

WHO universal flu vaccine 2019-2030

Global influenza pandemic

In its Global Influenza Strategy 2019-2030, published earlier this month, the WHO said the next global influenza pandemic is inevitable and will carry an enormous economic burden of up to $500 billion.

Therefore, better tools for the prevention, detection, control and treatment of influenza are needed and both global and particularly national preparedness for pandemic threats are essential.

GlobalData believes that recent and future advances in influenza vaccine development, particularly those related to the development of universal influenza vaccines, hold great promise to mitigate the global burden of influenza within the WHO strategy paper horizon.

Seasonal influenza

Seasonal influenza poses a serious public health risk, with one billion cases worldwide annually and 290,000–650,000 influenza-related respiratory deaths. The WHO report identifies four strategic actions to lessen the influenza burden worldwide until 2030.

Four actions to lessen the burden

The first is to promote research and innovation to address unmet public health needs, the second is to strengthen global influenza surveillance, monitoring, and data utilization, and the third and fourth are to expand seasonal influenza prevention and strengthen pandemic preparedness, respectively.

In the first strategic objective, the WHO recognizes the need for the development of novel, universal vaccines to both increase vaccine effectiveness and provide longer-lasting immunity against influenza viruses.

This will make influenza vaccination more acceptable in the population and eliminate the need to motivate people for annual vaccination. Universal influenza vaccines also promise protection against pandemic influenza threats, because they target conserved portions of the virus and thus protect against multiple virus strains.

Egg-based, cell-based and recombinant technology

Furthermore, the WHO sees the traditional egg-based production as problematic, due to its time-intensive process and possible virus mutations during the egg incubation.

Currently available products like the inactivated, quadrivalent cell-culture-based influenza vaccines Flucelvax (Seqirus) and the recombinant Flublok (Protein Sciences Corp) are already produced using new, egg-free production methods.

Key opinion leaders interviewed by GlobalData prefer non-egg-based production methods, but see a strong need to scale up the production of cell-based and recombinant vaccines.

Pipeline products

According to GlobalData’s proprietary clinical trial database, the seasonal influenza drug pipeline is highly active, with over 230 experimental products in all stages of development. The majority of those are in preclinical development, while the majority of Phase III trials are for vaccines. Many pipeline products aim both to be both effective for more than one season and utilize non-egg-based production methods.

The most advanced Phase III products include Biondvax’s M-001 and Medicago’s MT-2271. M-001 is a universal, recombinant vaccine that includes a combination of nine common and conserved epitopes from influenza virus proteins. MT-2271 is a virus-like particle based on protein shells studded with short strands of viral proteins. Many Phase II, egg-free, universal vaccine candidates have also shown promising results, including DeltaFlu (Vivaldi Biosciences), Flu-V (Imutex), and Redee Flu (Flugen).

GlobalData believes that the most important unmet needs for seasonal influenza, including novel universal vaccines, will be addressed within the scope of the WHO strategy until 2030, thus lessening the global burden of both seasonal and pandemic influenza threats.

Forthcoming reports:
GlobalData (2019). Seasonal Influenza Vaccines: Global Forecast and Market Analysis to 2028, to be published

GlobalData (2019). Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): Opportunity Analysis and Forecasts to 2028, to be published