Stop Letting Eggs Scramble Flu Vaccines, GlobalData Says

Steps needed to mass-produce vaccines using cell-based and other technologies

The alarmingly high number of pediatric deaths so far during the 2017–2018 flu season reinforce the need to shift away from the traditional chicken-egg-based approach to mass production of commercial influenza vaccines, according to consultant GlobalData. The egg-based vaccines commonly induce a suboptimal immune response.

GlobalData believes vaccine manufacturers should embrace the modernization of commercial mass production of seasonal influenza vaccines developed from cell and recombinant vaccine construction technologies. These technologies are capable of producing vaccines that are better designed for combatting circulating strains of the influenza virus.

Inherent limitations associated with the egg-based vaccine manufacturing process undermine the potential antibody-antigen binding affinity needed to achieve consistently high vaccine efficacy from season to season. Specifically, hereditary constraints presented by the egg substrate increase the antigen differentiation between the vaccine being constructed via egg and the region of the virus surface protein antigen targeted by the vaccine, GlobalData notes.  The end result is a decrease in binding affinity of the induced antibodies created from a mismatched vaccine.

In contrast, cell-based and recombinant vaccines are not similarly constrained in design because their vaccine propagation is not egg-based. Sequiris, a leading influenza vaccine maker, has received FDA approval for its quadrivalent influenza vaccine, Flucelvax, which is an all-cell-based candidate vaccine virus (CVV) derived from mammalian cells. Cell-based and recombinant vaccine production not only allow for direct incorporation of sequenced circulating influenza viruses, but can also be completed more quickly than the egg-based approach. The real-time strain surveillance relationship of this technology can provide the most effective seasonal influenza vaccine.

 “In order to best facilitate this shift away from egg-based technology, governments must modernize their partnerships with vaccine manufacturers,” said Gilbert Saint Jean, PhD, Healthcare Analyst at GlobalData. “Current surveillance by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other institutions revolves around the six to eight-month egg-substrate vaccine timeline. Overall vaccine efficacy improves with the newer technologies if their quicker manufacturing times are combined with government-provided seed virus submissions from increased surveillance at the global level for mutations in the antigenic target of flu vaccines.”

Given the public outcry from this year’s seasonal influenza outbreak, along with the national security implications of a future severely virulent influenza pandemic, GlobalData believes that the transition to non-egg vaccine mass production technologies should be expedited as long as newer technologies demonstrate reliability, safety, and increased average vaccine efficacy. Further improvement in vaccine efficacy can be gained if trials of universal influenza vaccines, such as Vaccitech’s INVICTUS phase 2 conserved antigen region study, prove successful.

Source: GlobalData; March 7, 2018.