The timing of vaccine availability is essential for an effective response to pandemic influenza. In 2009, vaccine became available after the disease peak, and this has motivated the development of next generation vaccine technologies for more rapid responses. The SAM(®) vaccine platform, now in pre-clinical development, is based on a synthetic, self-amplifying mRNA, delivered by a synthetic lipid nanoparticle (LNP). When used to express seasonal influenza hemagglutinin (HA), a SAM vaccine elicited potent immune responses, comparable to those elicited by a licensed influenza subunit vaccine preparation. When the sequences coding for the HA and neuraminidase (NA) genes from the H7N9 influenza outbreak in China were posted on a web-based data sharing system, the combination of rapid and accurate cell-free gene synthesis and SAM vaccine technology allowed the generation of a vaccine candidate in 8 days. Two weeks after the first immunization, mice had measurable hemagglutinin inhibition (HI) and neutralizing antibody titers against the new virus. Two weeks after the second immunization, all mice had HI titers considered protective. If the SAM vaccine platform proves safe, potent, well tolerated and effective in humans, fully synthetic vaccine technologies could provide unparalleled speed of response to stem the initial wave of influenza outbreaks, allowing first availability of a vaccine candidate days after the discovery of a new virus.
Keywords: RNA vaccine; SAM vaccine; influenza; vaccine platform.