Peter Palese has spent a long time thinking about how to improve the flu vaccine.
"Many, many decades," he said from his lab at Mt. Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine, where he chairs the microbiology department.
He feels his team is now getting close.
"We're really at the edge right now where I think we will have something much better," he said. "We're talking about years, but we are not talking about decades."
Palese is one of several scientists working on what they call the holy grail of flu: a universal vaccine, one that would protect against all strains of the virus and be durable for multiple years – if not a lifetime.
In order to do that, Palese's team built a new virus, one that doesn't exist in nature. It's the basis of a vaccine that's now in two phase 1 clinical trials, funded by British drug- and vaccine-maker GlaxoSmithKline and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Initial results are expected within a year.