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Oxford University, through its innovation arm Oxford University Innovation (OUI), has entered into an option agreement for a universal influenza vaccine with US-based startup Blue Water Vaccines (BWV), which is raising $15m to support development of the flu shot.

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Developed by scientists at the University’s Department of Zoology the vaccine protects against all influenza strains by targeting parts of the virus that induce a protective immune response but are also limited in variability. The technology has the potential of providing life-long immunity against flu.

Influenza is a major respiratory pathogen. It is estimated that there are over almost 500,000 deaths a year caused by influenza, with somewhere between three to five million severe cases of illness annually. The virus is estimated to cost $87.1bn in absenteeism in the US alone. Current influenza vaccines target highly variable epitopes of the virus which evolve and change annually, meaning flu vaccines need to be updated and redistributed every season while only typically providing protection to 50% of the individuals who receive it. Conversely, the universal flu vaccine developed at Oxford University targets epitopes that are both naturally immunogenic and limited in variability, allowing for a vaccine that protects against all influenza strains and avoids the need to be regularly updated.

Read more (University of Oxford website)

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