NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – The COVID pandemic pushed MRNA technology to the forefront of science, quickly giving us COVID vaccines. Now, scientists and doctors at Yale are doing trials to see if the technology can improve things like flu shots, and someday, even cancer treatments.

Yale Medicine Doctor Onyema Ogbuagu has been conducting MRNA vaccine trials throughout the pandemic. Now, he’s expanding MRNA’s use to other conditions.

“It’s really relatively easy to develop, we just essentially create a template,” Dr. Ogbuagu said.

Scientists can then take that template, using nucleic acids, and encode it for any protein they choose, such as the flu.

“It’s a very exciting new way of doing things that holds promise for a large swath of infectious diseases,” Dr. Ogbuagu said.

How would an MRNA flu vaccine be better than current vaccines? Dr. Ogbuagu said they would be versatile and much easier to remix during the flu season.

“We now have the potential, for example, within the influenza season to reproduce a different form of a vaccine if we find out there’s a poor match,” Dr. Ogbuagu said.

That could prevent many of the 700,000 flu hospitalizations and 52,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. Typically, annual flu shots range in effectiveness from just 16 to 60% because the wrong dominant strain was predicted.

The quick tweak of MRNA flu shots could fix that.

Dr. Ogbuagu’s trial will not include a placebo, so everyone involved will get an actual flu shot. People 65 and over can take part through mid November, with those 18 and up eligible then. All adults can call or email to sign up now. Contact information is helpusdiscover@yale.edu or call (203) 737-6372 or (203) 737-5058.