SEP 07, 2016 7:30 AM PDT

Keynote Speaker: Challenges towards a Universal Influenza Virus Vaccine

Speaker
  • Horace W. Goldsmith Professor and Chair Department of Microbiology Professor, Department of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
    Biography
      Peter Palese is a Professor of Microbiology and the Chair of the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. His research is in the area of RNA-containing viruses with a special emphasis on influenza viruses. Specifically, he established the first genetic maps for influenza A, B, and C viruses, identified the function of several viral genes, and defined the mechanism of neuraminidase inhibitors (which are now FDA-approved antivirals). He was also a pioneer in the field of reverse genetics for negative strand RNA viruses, which allows the introduction of site-specific mutations into the genomes of these viruses. This technique is crucial for the study of the structure/function relationships of viral genes, for investigation of viral pathogenicity and for development and manufacture of novel vaccines. An improvement of this technique has been effectively used by him and his colleagues to reconstruct and study the pathogenicity of the highly virulent, but extinct, 1918 pandemic influenza virus. His recent work in collaboration with Garcia-Sastre has revealed that most negative strand RNA viruses possess proteins with interferon antagonist activity, enabling them to counteract the antiviral response of the infected host.

    Abstract

    Despite FDA-approved vaccines and antivirals, seasonal and pandemic influenza remains a serious threat associated with substantial morbidity and mortality.  The present modalities and vaccine approaches will be discussed and the difficulties one faces with the presently available formulations will be addressed. While annual seasonal influenza virus vaccination is frequently effective – albeit underutilized in most countries – a safe universal influenza virus vaccine providing broad and long-lasting immunity would represent a major breakthrough.  We have developed vaccine constructs which express chimeric hemagglutinins resulting in the redirection of the immune response away from the immunodominant (variant) head domain of the hemagglutinin toward the much more conserved stalk of the hemagglutinin and the highly conserved neuraminidase.  Such vaccine constructs work well in animal challenge models and await extensive clinical trials in humans. 
     


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