6-9 October 2015: Impressions from the Influenza Vaccines for the World meeting 2015, Albufeira, Portugal

About 130 industry and academic scientists attended the influenza vaccines for the world 2015 meeting 6-9 October in Albufeira, Portugal. The meeting was opened by John Oxford who presented a centuries overview on scientific discoveries in the field of influenza research ranging from 1918 to recent discoveries. Sarah Gilbert (University of Oxford,UK) presented a keynote lecture on universal influenza vaccines and suggested to rephrase this to “a more universal influenza vaccine”. Data on the importance of T-cell responses to the conserved influenza internal proteins in resistance to heterologous subtypes were shown as well as the virally vectored (Ad / MVA) vaccination regimes employed to induce these responses.

The main topics addressed on egg based influenza vaccines (inactivated and live attenuated) included results on clinical trials comparing tri- and quadrivalent influenza vaccines showing satisfactory responses to both B type lineages following quadrivalent vaccination. The generation of stable reassortant donors for both inactivated and attenuated vaccines was addressed by a number of speakers. Data on optimal vaccine regimes for at risk groups (young booster and elderly high dose) were also addressed. Of note is a presentation by Lauren Parker (The Francis Crick Institute, London) describing changes in the (antigenic and) receptor binding properties following egg-adaptation employing elegant sialoside binding assays. Manon Cox (Protein Sciences, USA) presented data on the FDA approved insect cell produced influenza vaccine Flublok.

Presentations on experimental vaccines were varied and ranged from alternative production platforms (insect cells, plant cells), adjuvants to alternative vaccine (nasal, microneedle) delivery methods. Of note are data presented by Harmjan Kuipers (Johnson & Johnson) on a stable trimeric HA stem antigen capable of inducing broadly protective responses. Peter Pushko (Medigen, USA) presented data on insect cell-produced VLPs expressing multiple haemagglutinins on the same particle as a promising new approach for both seasonal and pandemic vaccines. A number of strategies to induce broadly neutralising responses was addressed ranging from consensus-based designer antigens (COBRA) presented by Ted Ross (University of Georgia, USA) to the application of the Epitope Dilution Phenomenon to influenza (first described for the variable malaria vaccine candidate: Apical Membrane Antigen 1, AMA1).

A number of topics addressing influenza assays was presented at the meeting. Emanuele Montomoli (VisMederi, Italy) presented data on HAI titre dependence on type of red blood cell used and discussed future regulatory perspectives for influenza vaccines. Novel potency assays to estimate the haemagglutinin content of vaccines were presented by NIBSC and InDev. InDev also presented data on developments in the automated reading and interpretation of HAI assays. The use of deep sequencing to detect low frequency variants was also a topic presented at the meeting.

Influenza remaining a key public health not only in industrialized but also importantly in low and middle-income countries was addressed highlighting the need of a universal (or at least broader) influenza vaccine.

Public perception of adjuvant hampering the licensing of new adjuvanted vaccine (Fluad) in Europe was also exposed.

The closing presentation was delivered by Albert Osterhaus (University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany) who presented an overview of research results on avian influenza viruses and the continued threat these pose for human and animal health.