St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering research and treatment of children with cancer; however, research of a far more common yet deadly disease also thrives here. For many years, St. Jude has been a global leader in the study of influenza because cancer patients undergoing treatments that diminish the immune system are at much more serious risk of death from infectious diseases like influenza; however, the impact of this disease extends far beyond the walls of St. Jude.
This video describes the historic global influenza pandemic of 1918 that affected strong, healthy young adults; killing as 100 million people in less than 3 years. In the early days, the complex infectious path from water fowl to humans was established, and scientists from St. Jude began monitoring annual mutations and contributing to development of the best line of defense; vaccines. For many years, benign stock virus was combined with new viral strains to produce vaccine seed stock that had to be processed extensively over as many as four months. With this new method, vaccine seed lot can now be produced in only 14 days.
In order to fully realize the potential of these technologies that extend beyond St. Jude’s core mission, the Office of Technology Licensing seeks commercial partners to further develop these discoveries into successful products. Medimmune/AstraZeneca utilized the plasmid rescue system developed at St. Jude to generate seasonal flu vaccines more rapidly and reliably for Flumist®, the first FDA approved application. Medimmune also offers other influenza vaccine manufactures non-exclusive licenses to this technology so that urgent flu vaccine needs can be met. Perhaps most importantly, this system makes it possible to generate vaccines to potential pandemic flu strains like H5N1 for the first time. This is just one example of how research conducted at St. Jude for the benefit of our patient population can have far reaching health benefits for the adult population as well.