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AI used to develop better flu vaccine

Health & Medical

A powerful seasonal flu vaccine developed using a sugar adjuvant and artificial intelligence is headed to the US for clinical trials.

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The vaccine uses a unique sugar adjuvant, which was developed by South Australian company Vaxine Pty Ltd, to make it more effective than traditional flu vaccines. AI was also used to create a second sugar compound to effectively double the vaccines impact.

Flinders University Professor and research director of Vaxine Pty Ltd Nikolai Petrovsky said adding the sugar adjuvant to the flu vaccine boosted the vaccine’s effectiveness.

“Everyone thinks that you have to recreate and start from scratch. But in this case, it really does work as a bolt on to the existing technology and existing vaccine,” he said.

Despite the availability of flu vaccines, the virus has remained a major health concern across the globe. Australia is in the midst of its worst winter flu season in a decade with more than 200 deaths and 100,000 infections, raising concerns of a difficult Northern Hemisphere season from October.

The US clinical trial will take about 12 months and aims to recruit 240 healthy volunteers.

The trial is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the US National Institutes of Health

Professor Petrovsky’s flu vaccine has been further enhanced by an additional component discovered by an artificial intelligence program called Search Algorithm for Ligands (SAM), which was created at Flinders University in Adelaide.

“We can’t claim we discovered the second component, the AI discovered it,” he said.

“It goes with the first component, which makes it doubly effective.

“The best way to explain the second component is it’s a very short piece of DNA but it’s a single strand… which further enhances the effectiveness of the vaccine.

“You need the two different sugar compounds together and that’s when you get this really potent effect.”

Professor Petrovsky said the discovery represented the beginning of a new era where AI would play an increasingly dominant role in drug discovery and design.

“The first component took 30 years to develop. The second component, with the artificial intelligence, basically took about six months,” he said.

“We trained the AI system and it went and basically screened hundreds of billions of compounds and ultimately identified a compound which we then took, made, tested and found that it did work and put it in the vaccine.

“That’s the power of it. The computer runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, you set it to work and off it goes.”

Together, the two components are known as Advax-SM and work as a super-turbocharger against infections.

Professor Petrovsky said Advax-SM could be applied to almost any vaccine technology.

“There’s great potential to apply this to allergy desensitization therapy and we’re just in the process of getting approval to do a clinical trial for a cancer vaccine using this technology,” he said.

“We also have an Alzheimer’s vaccine candidate in partnership with a group in the US and, again, that’s generating good data in animal models in the hope that that will go into humans sometime in the next few years.”

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story. Copied to Clipboard

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