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UI researchers aid in study to strengthen flu vaccine

The experimental vaccine candidate, M-001, is expected to target continuously changing flu strains that the normal vaccine does not.

"They're priming your immune system so that you respond better," said Dr. Patricia Winokur, University of Iowa's lead investigator of the study.

It's called M-001 and it's an experimental flu vaccine University researchers are studying. They're one of four other sites conducting the study that focuses on making the flu vaccine more effective.

"To stimulate the immune system in a better way so that when we get a regular flu shot we'll respond better," said Winokur.

The study will have up to 120 volunteers, between the ages of 18 and 49, who are in good health. Volunteers will be divided up into two groups. One group will get two doses of a placebo and the other group will receive M-001. Both groups will get the normal vaccine in the fall.

"We're hoping that those who get the M-001 might respond better and make more antibodies," said Winokur.

Researchers will continuously analyze volunteers' immune systems for 7 months. They'll watch to see if M-001 is offering protection against constantly changing strains of the flu that brings about a number of questions for researchers.

"Which of those strains is going to be the predominant strain that causes flu?" asked Winokur, explaining one of the major questions of concern.

There's still some time before M-001 is ready to be used b y the public, but researchers say it's already producing positive results.

"It's actually working nicely as a primer of the immune system," said Winokur.

Doctor Winokur says this phase of the study is expected to be complete by the end of the year. There is one more phase to go before M-001 can be considered to be used by the public.

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