Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo to Develop Flu-COVID Combo Vaccine Using mRNA

Japanese pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo Co. will develop a combination vaccine that protects against both novel coronavirus and seasonal influenza, the company announced Tuesday. The vaccine, which uses genetic material known as messenger RNA (mRNA), is expected to be more effective in preventing mass infection should cases for both diseases spike at once, reducing burden on medical staff.

A COVID-19 and flu combination vaccine provides protection in a single shot against the two infectious diseases, which both spread widely in winter. In September, Daiichi Sankyo applied to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry for approval to manufacture and sell an mRNA vaccine targeting the novel coronavirus’ omicron XBB 1.5 variant.

Daiichi Sankyo’s development of a new combination vaccine using mRNA will be financially supported by the Strategic Center for Biomedical Advanced Vaccine Research and Development for Preparedness and Response, the government’s command center for vaccine development.

U.S. pharmaceutical companies Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. lead the field in mRNA-based combination vaccines. Moderna announced on Oct. 4 that it had confirmed the safety and efficacy of this type of vaccine in initial clinical trials. The company will begin final stage trials as early as the end of this year, aiming for approval in 2025.