Gene Gun Shoots Down All Flu Strains?


SEATTLE, Wash. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — It’s shaping up to be a particularly bad year for flu. The CDC says over 170 children have already died from flu complications. Seasonal flu shots only protect you from three or four strains of flu, but researchers at the University of Washington are working to change that with a vaccine that would protect against all strains, and a delivery system that doesn’t hurt!

Lauren Reed has two small children and a full-time job.  She knows yearly flu shots don’t protect against all strains of the flu.

Reed said, “Even if it’s a little chance to avoid it, I’ll take that!”

Two researchers in two different labs have been working on a universal flu vaccine, one that would protect against all strains. Now, they’re working together. David Baker, PhD Director for the Institute for Protein Design at University of Washington School of Medicine is designing proteins to generate broad responses to flu.

Baker said, “The proteins mimic the virus so that when you get immunized with the protein, your body sees that it’s foreign and makes a response, and if it’s similar enough to the virus, then the response to the vaccine will also be a response to the virus.”

The protein leaves the body, but the immune response remains active.

In her lab, Deborah Fuller, PhD, Professor, Department of Microbiology, had identified genetic sequences to fight flu, but people’s immune responses weren’t strong. Now, with Baker’s protein platform and the gene gun she’s developing, work on a universal flu vaccine is moving forward.

Fuller said, “We put the DNA encoded on small one-micron size gold particles, and those gold particles are accelerated by a gene gun at high velocity, and then transferred into the cells of the skin.” (Read Full Interview)

She says it doesn’t hurt a bit. Now, she’s working on a gene gun for clinical trials, but those may not begin for five years.

Fuller guesses it could be ten years before you can go to your doctor and get this universal flu vaccine. Both she and Baker say the potential of this collaboration is big: they could use this system for other diseases like HIV or cancer.


Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.


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BACKGROUND: The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. People who have flu may suddenly experience fever, sore throat, coughing, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea can also occur, though more commonly in young children.



PREVENTION: The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death. The CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions (like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequent hand washing) to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory  illnesses, like flu. Flu viruses are spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins.



NEW RESEARCH:  Current vaccines take nine months from the time the virus has been identified to the time it can actually be injected into people. Most mortality that occurs with the flu happens in the first three to six months, thus vaccines are not available when they are most needed. A DNA vaccine takes less than three months to produce, and would protect against all types of flu. The first DNA vaccines were delivered with just a needle and syringe and were very inefficient due to the poor uptake of DNA into the body’s cells. Now, with the gene gun, the DNA could be transferred much more effectively into the cells of the skin, resulting in more cells producing the vaccine and much better immune responses.

(Source: Deborah Fuller, MD)



Bobbi Nodell


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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Deborah Fuller, PhD

Read the entire Q&A