People in London, UK, are being offered the opportunity to sign up for a clinical trial to test a new DNA vaccine from PowderMed that is targeted against the influenza virus.

This initial clinical evaluation is for a vaccine targetting the H3N2 strain of seasonal flu but, if successful, could lead to the development of DNA-based vaccines against potential pandemic strains of the virus such as H5N1.

The study has been approved by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and if the first clinical trial to see whether a DNA vaccine can protect people from infection with influenza.

The study is one of three being conducted this year by the UK company to assess DNA vaccine technology in protecting against annual and pandemic flu. The first phase is being carried out at the Guy's Drug Research Unit of Quintiles UK.

"What we are looking for are people willing to be vaccinated and then later challenged with an annual flu virus," said PowderMed's chief medical officer Dr John Beadle. "Some of them may get a mild form of influenza like illness, but our previous data suggests that those who are vaccinated may be protected."

All participants will also receive a course of treatment with Roche's influenza drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) at the end of the study.

PowderMed’s DNA vaccines use a proprietary needle-free system to deliver microscopic gold particles coated with DNA at supersonic speed into the immune cells of the skin.