Flinders University in Australia has announced plans to begin US clinical trials of a new seasonal flu vaccine developed using artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

Intended to offer more effectiveness, the new vaccine uses adjuvants that boost the body’s immune response.

Researchers noted that the product has been designed by an AI programme called Search Algorithm for Ligands (SAM). This technology was developed by the university team.

Flinders University professor Nikolai Petrovsky said: “This represents the start of a new era where artificial intelligence is going to play an increasingly dominant role in drug discovery and design.”

A randomised, double-blinded, Phase II study will be conducted in the US to assess the safety, reactogenicity, and immunogenicity of the flu vaccine over 12 months.

Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the trial will involve approximately 240 healthy volunteers.

According to statistics, 228 people have died from flu-related complications across Australia this year. The new vaccine is expected to provide improved efficacy compared to existing vaccines.

Petrovsky noted: “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.”

The Phase II trial of the new vaccine is expected to be completed in November this year.