Virus-like particle (VLP)-based vaccines for pandemic influenza Performance of a VLP vaccine during the 2009 influenza pandemic

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The influenza pandemic of 2009 demonstrated the inability of the established global capacity for egg-based vaccine production technology to provide sufficient vaccine for the population in a timely fashion. Several alternative technologies for developing influenza vaccines have been proposed, among which nonreplicating virus-like particles (VLPs) represent an attractive option because of their safety and immunogenic characteristics. VLP vaccines against pandemic influenza have been developed in tobacco plant cells and in Sf9 insect cells infected with baculovirus that expresses protein genes from pandemic influenza strains. These technologies allow rapid and largescale production of vaccines (3–12 weeks). The 2009 influenza outbreak provided an opportunity for clinical testing of a pandemic influenza VLP vaccine in the midst of the outbreak at its epicenter in Mexico. An influenza A(H1N1)2009 VLP pandemic vaccine (produced in insect cells) was tested in a phase II clinical trial involving 4,563 healthy adults. Results showed that the vaccine is safe and immunogenic despite high preexisting anti-A(H1N1)2009 antibody titers present in the population. The safety and immunogenicity profile presented by this pandemic VLP vaccine during the outbreak in Mexico suggests that VLP technology is a suitable alternative to current influenza vaccine technologies for producing pandemic and seasonal vaccines.

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