We've been talking a lot lately about flu vaccines. Now an anonymous reader sends us to a Technology Review piece on two human trials involving so-called virus-like particle vaccines, which promise to be much faster to churn out than traditional vaccines. (Here's a single-page version but without the useful illustration.) VLP vaccines use a protein shell, grown in either plant or insect cells, that look just like real viruses to the body's immune system but that contain no influenza RNA genetic material. A company called Medicago grows its VLPs in transgenic tobacco plants, while another called Novavax uses "immortalized" cells taken from caterpillars. Providing they pass safety muster, both techniques should be able to produce an influenza vaccine more quickly than current methods, using just the DNA of the virus.
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