Dr. Virginia Pascual Receives Funding to Study Efficacy of Next Generation Influenza Vaccines in Older Adults

Virgina Pascual, MD, Director of the Gale and Ira Drukier Director of Children's Health Research, has received a U01 subaward from the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases for her study, “A deep longitudinal analysis of next-generation influenza vaccines in older adults.” The study aims to understand whether and why next-generation influenza vaccines might be more efficacious in older adults.

The WHO estimates that annual epidemics of influenza result in 3-5 million cases of severe illness and 300,000- 500,000 deaths. 90% of influenza-related deaths occur in older adults despite widespread vaccination programs with vaccines tailored for this high-risk group. The estimated effectiveness of the influenza vaccine in the U.S. for the 2018-2019 influenza season overall was 47%, but only 12-13% in older adults ((≥65yrs). Therefore, there is an urgent need to understand the mechanisms that are turned on/off in older adults that result in their limited response rate to the most commonly used influenza vaccine, Fluzone® High-Dose.

The goal of this study is to understand the mechanisms that lead to a loss of response to influenza vaccine in older adults. Immunosenescence, the process of immune dysfunction that occurs with age, is known to be associated with a decline in B cell and T cell adaptive immunity. However, the overall understanding of the mechanisms of immunosenescence is incomplete.

Dr. Pascual and co-investigator, Dr. Patrick Wilson, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Interim) at Weill Cornell Medicine, will analyze the process of Immunosenescence in a cohort of 60 healthy older adults (≥65yrs) who will sequentially receive three different annual influenza vaccines, and provide sample collections during three years of follow-up. Samples will be assessed, characterized, and studied to determine which immune features can predict vaccine responsiveness. Drs. Pascual and Wilson expect to identify humoral immunity pathways that are altered in aging that can be used as the basis for designing novel approaches to boost efficacy of Fluzone® High-Dose, as well as other emerging, influenza vaccines.

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