The fight against the flu

The flu shot has proven effective, but there are limits to its protection. The vaccine works only against strains of the flu, or influenza virus that are already infecting humans. Should a new type of flu virus emerge in humans, we would not have time to develop a new vaccine before it sweeps through the human population.

Past pandemics have killed tens of millions of people. Right now, there’s a flu virus called Asian Lineage Avian Influenza A (H7N9) that kills nearly one of every two people it infects. But humans can only get it from infected poultry. It can’t be spread by humans to each other. But if it could, the effects would be catastrophic.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today that assistant professor of biochemistry Tijana Ivanovic has received a New Innovator Award to conduct research that may improve our chances of forecasting a flu pandemic. Right now, we have no way of predicting which strain of the flu virus will evolve and become capable of being passed from human to human. She hopes to change this.

The New Innovator Award is one of the most prestigious grants an early-career scientist can get. It’s part of the NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program aimed at encouraging cutting-edge, out-of-the-box science. Ivanovic will receive $1.5 million over five years.

Read more about Ivanovic and her work.

Categories: Faculty, Campus News
Date: October 6, 2017