For more than a decade, Ross has been working on what’s been termed a “universal vaccine” for flu. That makes for easy shorthand, but Ross is quick to clarify that even if a vaccine can be discovered to wipe out influenza, it wouldn’t be a single compound that’s injected into everyone.
Instead, an eventual flu vaccine would be collection of vaccines. The specific type would be given to patients based on a variety of factors including geography, age, medical history and other factors. Rather than a “universal” vaccine, Ross prefers the term “broadly protected.”
The development of a broadly protective vaccine is taking a big step forward, and Ross is at the forefront of the effort. In partnership with Sanofi Pasteur, the world’s largest manufacturer of influenza vaccines, Ross has developed a vaccine that protected animal models from every currently circulating strain of the H3N2 flu virus. Clinical trials in humans, a major step toward a broadly protected vaccine, are scheduled to begin in 2019.
“The clinical trials will be important because we have to see how these vaccines work,” Ross says. “The better you understand how a vaccine operates in a human, the better you can use that knowledge to other pathogens.”