Modulating Emerging Memory Responses to Immunisation (MEMRI)

Study code

Lead researcher
Eoin McKinney

Study type
Participant re-contact

Institution or company
University of Cambridge, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Researcher type

Speciality area
Infection, Primary Care

Recruitment Site


We have used an integrated genomic and computational biology approach to identify clinically approved drugs that may impact on the development of immune memory following infection or vaccination. This ‘repurposing’ approach takes drugs that are already used for one purpose and applies them in a new context, benefiting from effects that may not have been anticipated or considered in their initial development. The approach creates the potential for rapid translation of discoveries into clinical use as existing drugs that are known to be safe can quickly be applied in a new context.  

We have found that that a low dose of an epilepsy drug (sodium valproate) can steer an immune response after vaccination or infection towards a memory phenotype, improving its ability to respond to subsequent challenge. We now aim to test this mechanism through a proof of concept experimental medicine study in which healthy volunteers receive low dose sodium valproate for 7 days following immunisation with seasonal influenza vaccine. Specifically we aim to understand whether the drug can alter the number or type of ‘flu specific cells or antibodies produced and can do so by taking blood samples around the time of vaccination.

In this study we are aiming to determine whether the effects we have seen in early experiments are also seen in healthy volunteers after vaccination. We will not be testing whether the drug improves effectiveness of the vaccine but will find out more about how different groups of people respond: for example, whether old people respond differently to young people and whether previous exposure to ‘flu vaccines or infections impacts on the effects seen. The information obtained will advance our understanding of immunological mechanisms and will also directly inform the design of a subsequent trial to test the treatments impact on vaccine effectiveness.