Vaccines have been used for the better part of a century and have eliminated diseases like small pox, leading humanity to be on the verge of eliminating polio from the face of the planet. But because of the difficulty in creating a universal flu vaccine, people have to continue going to the doctor annually for a flu vaccine to protect against the strains that will be prevalent during that year. In addition to many people's aversions to needles, the usage of syringes and refrigerated liquid vaccine presents issues in transport and storage, in addition to limiting people who can receive flu vaccines to those in developed areas.

This is why a biotechnology company named Vaxart out of San Francisco is working on a simple pill that could be taken instead of the yearly injection. The company has developed a cold virus, adenovirus vector type 5 (Ad5), which does not make people ill or infect cells and carries proteins from the seasonal flu, just like a regular flu shot. With the virus put into the pill, this drug can induce immunity through the gut instead of through the blood, where the virus would be neutralized before imparting immunity to the specific flu strain.

Additionally, the company can create flu vaccines relatively quickly, which is a problem with traditional flu vaccines that can take up to half of a year to grow and purify. Vaxart produced a 100-percent effective H1N1 vaccine from start to finish in just 17 days. The process is a simple drag-and-drop of the desired virus component into the vaccine development system.

Usually, vaccines require the use of an adjuvant, which is a chemical that boosts the strength of a vaccination. This helps the body mount a robust immune response and allows less biological material to be used in each vaccine. Vaxart has developed an adjuvant that is safe and stimulates receptors, called toll-like receptors, in the immune system to sense viruses and bacteria and help cells mount an appropriate response.

Vaxart is currently in the middle of early-stage Phase I human clinical trials to assess the safety of its vaccine pill for the H1N1 seasonal flu and H5n1 avian flu. So far, the vaccine has shown promise. The company is also working on an oral flu vaccine pill for human papillomavirus, hepatitis B, and herpes. Most notably, the company is developing a vaccine pill for the Ebola virus and the Marburg virus, both of which are serious flesh-eating and hemorrhagic viruses with high mortality rates. Vaxart is currently recruiting people to help with the early stages of clinical trials for this innovative vaccine.