Anna Kovacevich is a senior program assistant at GHTC who supports GHTC's communications and member engagement activities.
Research Roundup: A new pandemic preparedness fund, variant-specific boosters, and a universal flu shot
In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.
The World Bank on Thursday approved the creation of a prevention, preparedness, and response financial intermediary fund, or FIF, intended to strengthen national, regional, and global capacities to prevent and prepare for future pandemics. The FIF will pool dedicated resources for pandemic preparedness and response, starting with initial pledges of $1.1 billion—though this represents only around 10 percent of the $10.5 billion the fund will need annually, according to the World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO). WHO will provide technical leadership for the FIF in close collaboration with the World Bank; the scope and structure of its operations and board, however, have not yet been determined. The FIF will also incentivize increased investments from countries, enhance partner coordination, and serve as a platform for advocacy.
The US Food and Drug Administration is advising vaccine makes to reformulate their COVID-19 shots to target the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants, which now account for the majority of US infections and have been growing in prevalence globally, alongside the original strain of the virus. The updated recommendation, announced last week following a vote by a panel of outside experts, is meant to leave enough time for vaccine makers to adapt their formulas and manufacture updated shots to provide broader protection against the virus amid potential fall and winter booster campaigns. The newer forms of the shots will only be offered as boosters, while the primary series of shots will continue to use the original vaccines given their maintained effectiveness against severe outcomes of the virus.
The National Institutes of Health has begun testing a universal influenza vaccine that could provide long-lasting protection against a wide range of seasonal flu viruses as well as those with pandemic potential. The vaccine candidate, BPL-1357, is composed of four strains of non-infectious, chemically inactivated, low-pathogenicity avian flu virus. The phase 1 trial, which follows successful preclinical studies, will evaluate BPL-1357 delivered both intranasally and intramuscularly for safety and ability to induce immune responses among up to 100 volunteers. With this new vaccine candidate, scientists are attempting to induce a comprehensive immune response closely mimicking immunity from natural flu infection, as opposed to focusing on inducing immunity to a single viral antigen.