We are pleased to present to you the second newsletter of the FLUCOP project, which aims at standardisation and development of assays for assessment of influenza vaccine correlates of protection.
One highlight during the last month was the reported progress and discussions during the FLUCOP annual meeting that let us look forward towards an exciting project period, in which the first pilot assays will be performed.
Furthermore, starting with this newsletter, we want to give a human face to the FLUCOP project and describe the activities and role of a FLUCOP partner in more detail in the section ‘Inside FLUCOP’.
The ‘News’ section informs you about relevant progress and events in the field of influenza standardisation and vaccine development. Have your calendar ready to mark the dates of some of the ‘upcoming events’.
You are more than welcome to distribute this newsletter to anyone you consider being interested in reading it. Subscribing to or unsubscribing from the newsletter can be easily done via the FLUCOP website.
One year has passed since 22 partners, ranging from academia over European agencies to industry, initiated the FLUCOP project with the aim of advancing influenza vaccine development by standardising and developing assays for assessment of influenza vaccine correlates of protection.
One year on is a good time-point to reconsider where we are and where we want to go. This reflection fittingly took place in the historic cloister of the Certosa di Pontignano near Siena (see impressions), with about 50 delegates from the 22 partner organisations contributing via discussions and presentations to the FLUCOP annual meeting 2016. The External Advisory Board with their expertise and commitment were thereby of fundamental help.
Striving towards one objective allowed a trustful working relationship to be built between partners with such diverse backgrounds. Protocols have already been freely exchanged, and critical parameters for standardised assays defined. With all theoretical and preparatory work in place the consortium is now looking forward to starting the first pilot studies in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned for the first experimental results.
Inside FLUCOP: The EpidMol group
In the beautiful and historical University of Siena, founded in 1240 and one of the oldest and most renowned universities of Italy, one of FLUCOPs key members can be found: The Molecular Epidemiology group (EpidMol), led by Prof. Emanuele Montomoli, part of the Molecular and Developmental Medicine department.
EpidMol’s background makes the team tremendously suitable for their task in the FLUCOP project. Focusing on traditional immunological techniques that enable influenza-specific antibody detection, such as Virus Neutralisation (VN), Haemagglutination Inhibition (HAI) and Single Radial Haemolysis (SRH) assays, the EpidMol group performs seroepidemiological studies in different clinical trials phases. This work makes them extremely experienced in storage and maintenance of serum samples and in collaborating with pharmaceutical companies and diverse international projects.
Having day-to-day hands-on experience with classical assays, EpidMol is well aware of the need of standardisation and good correlates of protection, thus sharing and promoting the vision of FLUCOP.
The EpidMol group (from left to right): Emanuele Montomoli, Associated Professor of Public Health; Serena Marchi, PhD student; Claudia Trombetta, Junior Researcher in Public Health; Ilaria Manini, Researcher in Public Health
In the context of FLUCOP, coordinated scientifically by Prof. Emanuele Montomoli, the EpidMol group is mainly involved in Work Package (WP) 1 “Standardisation of HAI&VN assays” aimed at improving and standardising the HAI and VN assays for the evaluation of influenza vaccine immunogenicity. EpidMol is involved in all WP1 activities, such as the collection of different protocols for both assays routinely used by the FLUCOP members, the assay validation and the inter-laboratory evaluation aimed at developing a standardised consensus protocol for each assay and coordinates all the activities of the VN sub-team. In addition, a complementary study will be performed by EpidMol in order to compare results obtained by HAI and SRH assays, since the latter is well established and validated in the group.
By contributing to the collection of peripheral blood mononuclear cells and the standardisation and evaluation of assays that include intracellular and cytokine staining and ELISpot methods, EpidMol participates in WP 2 “Advancing the understanding and application of cell-mediated immunity”. Being furthermore involved in WP 3 “Assays to detect neuraminidase (NA) specific antibody responses for evaluating influenza vaccines immunogenicity”, underlines the key-position EpidMol holds in the FLUCOP project. WP 3 aims to advance the understanding and application of NA antibody titration assays as an additional tool for the evaluation of vaccine immunogenicity. EpidMol contributes to all WP 3 tasks, covering the evaluation and selection of suitable assays including their validation and testing if the currently used VN assays can detect NA antibodies.
EpidMol is enthusiastic to participate in FLUCOP, an ambitious project aimed towards standardisation of traditional serological techniques currently displaying high variability, and hopes that the newly standardised assay will soon be used not only in Siena’s labs, but all around the world, accelerating influenza vaccine development.
FLUCOP partners recognise the need for harmonisation in Influenza research. Othmar Engelhardt and Ralf Wagner are not only highly involved in the FLUCOP project but in the context of the CONSISE partnership (Consortium for the Standardisation of Influenza SeroEpidemiology) analysed the variability between different labs and protocols using enzyme-linked lectin assays (ELLA) to determine neuraminidase-inhibition antibody titers. The results published …
The second EDUFLUVAC workshop, an integrated part of the project programme on the development of a broadly reactive influenza vaccine, will focus on experimental animal models for universal vaccines. The event will take place 23 – 24 June 2016 at the Biomedical Primate Research Centre, Rijswijk, Netherlands. The workshop will bring together experts from both academia and industry working on …
Options for the Control of Influenza conferences – OPTIONS IX. Held every 3 years, it remains the largest international conference exclusively devoted to influenza prevention, control and treatment, including seasonal flu and pandemic preparedness. The program is well-developed and led by work-groups on Clinical Science, Public Health plus Virology. Like its predecessors, OPTIONS IX will attract leaders from global industry, top educational institutions, healthcare facilities and government agencies. Not to be missed. http://2016.isirv.org/
The project is supported from the Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking under grant agreement n 115672, resources of which are composed of financial contribution from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) and EFPIA companies’ in kind contribution. You can contact us at: http://www.flucop.eu/contact/