Moderna's latest vaccine trial paves way for a flu/COVID combo

Moderna has announced the start of its Phase 1/2 human clinical trial involving its mRNA seasonal influenza vaccine. The work is the start of what may prove to be an interesting evolution in seasonal illness vaccines, with Moderna stating that it plans to evaluate possible combination vaccines that would offer protection from RSV, influenza, COVID-19, and hMPV.

According to Moderna, the first people participating in its Phase 1/2 mRNA-1010 quadrivalent seasonal flu vaccine candidate trial have been dosed with the product. This candidate vaccine targets multiple lineages based on the WHO's recommendation, including influenza A viruses H1N1 and H3N2, as well as influenza B viruses B Yamagata and Victoria.

The vaccine candidate is being tested on healthy adults in the US ages 18 and older. The Phase 1/2 trial is intended to evaluate the mRNA-1010 vaccine candidate for immunogenicity, reactogenicity, and, of course, safety. Moderna intends to eventually enroll around 180 people in the study.

Though the flu vaccine plays an important role in protecting public health, egg-based vaccine production isn't ideal: the formulation is decided upon up to nine months ahead of when the vaccines will be needed, for example, and their efficacy falls between 40- and 60-percent. mRNA vaccines offer greater potential, Moderna notes, for dealing with respiratory viruses.

These vaccines can combine multiple different antigens so that a single vaccine offers protection against multiple types of viruses, plus companies can more rapidly respond to changes in these respiratory viruses and the needs of the public. Moderna CEO St├ęphane Bancel explained:

We believe that the advantages of mRNA vaccines include the ability to combine different antigens to protect against multiple viruses and the ability to rapidly respond to the evolution of respiratory viruses, such as influenza, SARS-CoV-2 and RSV. Our vision is to develop an mRNA combination vaccine so that people can get one shot each fall for high efficacy protection against the most problematic respiratory viruses. We look forward to advancing our core modality of prophylactic mRNA vaccines so that we can continue to make an impact on global public health.