This new RGC grant will allow Sook-San Wong and her team to lead a new project at HKU-Pasteur: Systematic investigation into the breadth of antibody and B cell cross-reactivity to avian influenza neuraminidase (NA) proteins in humans.
This project will be conducted with collaborators from HKU-Pasteur, Vijaykrishna Dhanasekaran and Sophie Valkenburg, from the School of Public Health, Ben Cowling and Nancy Leung, from the Centre for Immunology & Infection, Malik Peiris and Mark Zanin, and Washington University of St. Louis, Ali Ellebedy.
There is a diverse breadth of influenza A viruses in nature, some of which continue to pose a public health threat due to its pandemic potential. There is a need to improve our vaccination and therapeutic strategies so that it can be broadly effective against the diverse IAV subtypes. Compared to hemagglutinin protein (HA), the alternate viral surface protein, neuraminidase (NA), undergo slower evolution, making it an attractive target for eliciting cross-reactive immunity. We recently discovered that adults older than 65 years old possess NA-antibodies that recognize several avian NA subtypes; likely due to past exposure to the avian-like NA of the 1957 H2N2 and 1968 H3N2 pandemic viruses. This project seeks to systematically study the breadth of cross-reactivity and protective capacity of anti-avian NA antibodies in human from a molecular and immunological perspective. In collaboration with other investigators bringing their distinct expertise, we will utilize a combination of in silico, animal, and human studies to address the project aims. Our findings will be important in defining the role of NA-antibodies in the population immunity against zoonotic influenza viruses and facilitate the development of pan-NA reactive therapeutics or vaccines in the future.