Modulating Emerging Memory Responses to Immunisation (MEMRI)

Study code

Lead researcher
Dr 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, Ageing

Recruitment Site


The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to protect the body from infection and maintain health. The immune response varies for different people and is true of the response to a vaccination for influenza. Some people may respond well to a vaccine, while others may not and the reasons for this are only partially understood. Gaining an insight into the factors that promote vaccine response could improve our ability to prevent potentially life-threatening infections.

The aim of this study was to test whether we can re-use an existing, safe treatment to promote immune memory following influenza vaccinations. Volunteers received the seasonal influenza vaccine and were then given a 7 day course of Sodium Valproate tablets. Sodium Valproate, is normally used to treat Epilepsy.

Based on over 5 years of laboratory research Sodium Valproate has been identified as a drug that is capable of steering an immune response towards generating a stronger immune memory response. This may prove a quick and effective means of improving the efficacy of vaccines that are already available and to potentially improving those which are still under development.

Participation: A total of 69 volunteers aged 18-60 years from the Cambridge BioResource were recruited. The BioResource screened and invited participants who then attended the Cambridge Clinical Research Facility for their study visits. Each volunteer donated 75ml of blood over 3 study visits and completed a health and lifestyle questionnaire. Samples were on the day of the influenza vaccine and then 7 and 30 days after the vaccine. Due to the pandemic, the study was delayed, but once up and running  the study team had the required number of samples and data set to work with after 1 year and 4 months.

Organisation: The MEMRI study is led by Dr Eoin McKinney and sponsored by the University of Cambridge and Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation trust.