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A new more effective seasonal flu vaccine developed in South Australia is to be tested in clinical trials in the United States.

The technology used in the development of the new vaccine is believed to be the first human drug in the world to be completely designed by artificial intelligence.

Although computers have been used in the past to help in drug design, the vaccine technology was independently designed by an artificial intelligence program called SAM (Search Algorithm for Ligands), developed by Flinders University.

“This represents the start of a new era where artificial intelligence is going to play an increasingly dominant role in drug discovery and design,” Flinders University Professor and Research Director of Vaxine Pty Ltd Dr Nikolai Petrovsky said.

Current flu vaccines provided some protection but a number of influenza patients seen this year had received the 2019 vaccine which showed the need to develop a better flu vaccine.

“Despite currently available vaccines, flu remains a very major global health problem. So far in 2019 there have been over 96,000 confirmed cases across Australia. The number in WA nearly doubled to 10,000, as did the number of deaths; there have been 57 deaths recorded in NSW; 44 in SA; and nearly 40 in Queensland.”

Dr Petrovsky developed the technology using adjuvants – substances which act as a turbocharger to enhance their ability to protect against infection.

“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.

“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 trial is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the US National Institutes of Health. The US clinical trial will take about 12 months to complete and aims to recruit 240 healthy volunteers.