CANBERRA, July 2 (Xinhua) — Australian researchers who have developed a more effective flu vaccine have said that it will undergo clinical trials in the United States.
According to team leader Nikolai Petrovsky from Flinders University in South Australia the vaccine was developed by an artificial intelligence (AI) program called Search Algorithm for Ligands (SAM), making it the first human drug in the world completely designed by AI.
Although computers have been used in the past to help design drugs, the new vaccine was entirely independently designed by SAM, which in turn was created by Petrovsky’s team.
“This represents the start of a new era where artificial intelligence is going to play an increasingly dominant role in drug discovery and design,” Petrovsky said in a media release.
The new vaccine uses adjuvants, a substance that enhances the body’s immune response to a virus.
It comes as Australia endures one of its-worst ever flu seasons with 228 people confirmed dead from the virus so far in 2019 and more than 100,000 people diagnosed with it despite more than 13.1 million doses of the influenza vaccine being administered nationally.
“Despite currently available vaccines, flu remains a very major global health problem,” Petrovsky said.
“It takes decades to develop a new human vaccine and this is extremely hard to achieve under Australian funding models which tend to be short term.”
The U.S. trial is expected to run for approximately 12 months and is aiming to recruit 240 volunteers.
Dimitar Sajkov, a member of Petrovsky’s team, said that Australia’s flu death toll so far in 2019 was a testament to the need to develop a better vaccine.
“It is tremendous to see such a promising vaccine that we developed with the very first human trials being done at Flinders, progressing onto the world stage,” he said.