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For Flu and More

Several vaccine developers are setting their sights on developing mRNA-based vaccines, like those for SARS-CoV-2, for influenza, the Wall Street Journal writes. According to the Journal, companies like Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer as well as Moderna are all working on mRNA-based vaccines for the flu.

It adds that making an mRNA-based vaccine is faster than traditional vaccine development methods, which could be particularly helpful for making flu vaccines. Currently, makers of flu vaccines grow inactivated versions of the viruses predicted to be in circulation in chicken eggs, a process that can take about six months, the Journal says, adding that, in that time, the flu virus can develop mutations that make the vaccine less effective. By contrast, it notes that it took 63 days for Moderna to develop its mRNA-based vaccine for SARS-CoV-2. Additionally, GSK's Roger Connor tells it that the "hardware" stays the same for manufacturing different mRNA-based vaccines, while the "software" changes, which could lead to cost savings.

Still some issues that have been noted with the mRNA-based SARS-CoV-2 vaccines — such as their need for very cold storage — would have to be worked out. GSK's Norman Begg tells the Journal he is confident that those shortcomings can be addressed.

Companies are also looking beyond influenza to other diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and cancer.

The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people over 65 or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.