Safety and immunogenicity of a recombinant hemagglutinin influenza-flagellin fusion vaccine (VAX125) in healthy young adults

John J. Treanor, David N. Taylor, Lynda Tussey, Christine Hay, Carrie Nolan, Theresa Fitzgerald, Ge Liu, Uma Kavita, Langzhou Song, Irving Dark, Alan Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: The need for worldwide seasonal and pandemic vaccine production has increased interest in the development of innovative technologies for influenza vaccine production. We evaluated a novel influenza vaccine consisting of the globular head of the HA1 domain of the A/Solomon Islands/3/2006 (H1N1) influenza virus (VAX125) genetically fused to the TLR5 ligand, flagellin, and produced in E. coli. Methods: 128 healthy adult subjects 18-49 years old were enrolled in a clinical trial conducted in three stages at a single center. Stage 1 was an open-label, dose escalation study in which the VAX125 vaccine was administered intramuscularly (im) at doses of 0.1 μg, 0.3 μg, 1 μg, 2 μg, 3 μg, 5 μg and 8 μg to groups of 8 subjects each. Stage 2 was a double-blind, placebo-controlled study in which subjects were randomized to receive 1.0 μg and 2.0 μg VAX125 vaccine doses or placebo, with 16 subjects per group. Finally, an additional 24 subjects received a 0.5 μg dose of VAX125 in stage 3, which was a non-randomized, open label study. In all parts subjects were followed for adverse events and sera was tested by hemagglutination-inhibition (HAI) and microneutralization (MN) against egg-grown virus on days 0, 7, 14, and 28. Serum C-reactive protein (CRP), cytokine levels, and anti-flagellin antibody were also assessed. Results: Vaccine was generally well tolerated and there were no serious adverse events. Pain at the injection site was the most common local adverse event, and was mild or moderate in intensity. Systemic symptoms after vaccination include fatigue and headache, and two subjects, who received either 3 or 8 μg, had moderately severe systemic symptoms accompanied by substantial increases in serum CRP. Serum antibody responses against SI were seen by HAI and MN in most study subjects, with the geometric mean titer of post vaccination antibody increasing in a dose-dependent fashion. Overall, four-fold or greater serum HAI responses were seen in 61 of 96 (64%) subjects who received doses of 0.5 μg or greater, including in 46 of 72 subjects who received doses from 0.5 μg to 2 μg. Conclusions: The globular head of the influenza HA expressed in a prokaryotic system was able to induce a functional antibody response against native virions. Vigorous responses were seen at relatively low doses of HA antigen suggesting that the addition of flagellin provided a substantial adjuvanting effect. The high levels of immune response at low doses of antigen and the relative ease of production associated with E. coli expression suggests that this approach may represent an effective strategy for enhancing the global influenza vaccine supply.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8268-8274
Number of pages7
Issue number52
Publication statusPublished - Dec 6 2010
Externally publishedYes



  • Clinical trials
  • Influenza
  • Vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • veterinary(all)
  • Molecular Medicine

Cite this

Treanor, J. J., Taylor, D. N., Tussey, L., Hay, C., Nolan, C., Fitzgerald, T., ... Shaw, A. (2010). Safety and immunogenicity of a recombinant hemagglutinin influenza-flagellin fusion vaccine (VAX125) in healthy young adults. Vaccine, 28(52), 8268-8274.