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Faster Flu Vaccines?

Synthetic Genomics is hoping to speed up the production process for influenza vaccines, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Currently, seasonal flu vaccines take months to make and relies on growing virus seed strains in fertile chicken eggs, the Union-Tribune notes

Instead, Synthetic Genomics' approach involves uncovering viral sequences in hotspots in China and sending those sequences to manufacturing centers to create a synthetic viral seed for vaccines, the paper says. Synthetic Genomics described this method in a proof-of concept-study in 2013 and said it would shorten the time needed to make vaccines to just a few weeks, it adds. Additionally, the Union-Tribune reports the company has developed a prototype of a machine that synthesizes DNA, RNA, protein, and viral particles from provided raw materials based on electronic data — viral sequence data — fed into it.

"Instead of going into the egg-based production, if you could load (the digitized information) right onto one of our machines, then you could get to a point where you could start manufacturing and have it made," Oliver Fetzer, CEO of Synthetic Genomics, tells the Union-Tribune. The paper notes that the company still needs to demonstrate that the machine is accurate and can be scaled up.