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Penn Medicine will study influenza viruses around the world and work to find what viruses may have the potential to cause future pandemics. 

Credit: Zach Sheldon

Penn Medicine has been awarded nearly $7 million for the first year of a project to study influenza viruses.

Penn Medicine will function as a Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Response after being selected by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health. Penn Medicine will work as a CEIRR with the goal of gaining a better understanding of influenza viruses around the world and finding out what viruses may have the potential to cause future pandemics, Penn Medicine News reported. The contract is expected to last an additional six years beyond this first year of funding.

Scott Hensley, an associate professor of Microbiology at the Perelman School of Medicine, has been selected to serve as Penn’s CEIRR director, Penn Medicine News reported. Hensley has expertise in studying seasonal influenza, including identifying components that affect responsiveness to vaccines and developing new platforms for influenza vaccines. His research is focused on developing influenza vaccines that are the most effective at protecting people from antigenically diverse influenza strains. 

Launched in 2007 as Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance,  before transitioning to CEIRR, all CEIRRs have four areas of focus regarding influenza: longitudinal human influenza studies, influenza surveillance, risk assessment and response research, pre-pandemic and pandemic emergency response, and pathogenesis and immune response research, Penn Medicine News reported.

Penn Medicine has 100 years worth of research regarding influenza, Penn Medicine News reported. Over the next seven years, Penn Medicine will work to extend knowledge and understanding of what kinds of viral strains develop into a pandemic and how human response to influenza changes over time.