Tulane seeks volunteers in fight to improve flu vaccines

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Tulane University is looking for volunteers who could help in the development of a new, more effective flu treatment.

The school of medicine just landed a $1.6 million grant that could help save lives.

"We are looking for 45 to 50 volunteers, ideally 25 to 30 of those who are over 65, and people who are diabetic," said immunologist Betzi Norton.

Norton's goal is to develop information about which flu vaccines are effective and which aren't.  That information would then be used in a larger study, about to begin at Tulane, to develop a better way to treat flu. The work will be funded by the grant from the National Institutes of Health.

"It meant that we were going to get to do research that really matters to your community," said researcher Robin Baudier.

Immunologists will focus on stimulating blood cells to make them more responsive to flu vaccines.

"The efficacy is 50 to 60 percent, depending on the year, but the efficacy gets lower with the elderly, who could have vaccine failure and be infected with the flu," Norton said.

The grant will not only fund critical research, it will also provide a few jobs at the Tulane School of Medicine.

"The grant pays for co-investigators, my salary, and provides two salary positions," said Norton, who will be looking to create a nasal application for the flu treatment. The work leading up to the grant award took nearly five years.

"I tend to be careful, but I think we have a good shot at promoting this research to do good for our community and the U.S.," Norton said.

The grant will fund research for the next four years, but if all goes well, Norton hopes for positive results much sooner. He said the research is important because the flu can be deadly - and it's expensive, costing the U.S. more than $16 billion a year in lost productivity.

If you want to participate in the Tulane study, give them a call at (504) 988-0200.

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