Insect Cells Could Increase Flu-Vaccine Development

January 7, 2010
Stephanie Sutton

Stephanie Sutton was an assistant editor at Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

Influenza vaccines can be produced faster using a new insect cell-based technology compared with traditional egg-based processes, according to scientists in Vienna, Austria.

Influenza vaccines can be produced faster using a new insect cell-based technology than traditional egg-based processes, according to scientists in Vienna, Austria. The new technique involves using insect cells to create recombinant influenza virus-like particles (VLPs) that resemble virus particles, but lack the viral nucleic acid, which means they are not infectious.

"Recent outbreaks of influenza highlight the importance of a rapid and sufficient vaccine supply for pandemic and inter-pandemic strains," said Florian Krammer, co-author of the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Science study in Vienna, in a press statement.

Traditional influenza vaccines are produced in embryonated chicken eggs and although they can be manufactured in sufficient quantities for seasonal influenza strains, the method may be insufficient in a pandemic situation because of limited egg supply.

Using the new insect cell-based method, the Austrian team took only 10 weeks to produce swine-origin pandemic H1N1 swine-flu influenza VLPs for immunological studies in mice. Conventional production methods, however, would take months. Using insect cells also overcomes some of the problems associated with egg-based methods, such as allergic reactions to egg proteins and biosafety issues.

"Our work demonstrates that recombinant influenza VLPs are a very fast, safe and efficient alternative to conventional influenza vaccines and represents a significant new approach for newly emerging influenza strains such as H1N1 or H5N1," said Krammer in the release.

The study appears in the Biotechnology Journal.