Worldwide Influenza Centre lab

The Worldwide Influenza Centre at the Crick is one of seven centres in the world responsible for analysing influenza viruses circulating in the human population, overseen by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

We monitor flu strains around the world and inform vaccine development, working within the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System, consisting of over 150 laboratories and institutions worldwide.

The WHO established the Worldwide Influenza Centre in 1948 at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), now part of the Crick. After the first flu vaccine was introduced in 1945, there was a need to research and monitor flu strains to keep the vaccine up-to-date. Scientists at the NIMR were the first to identify the human flu virus in 1933, making it an ideal location for the new centre.

We analyse flu samples from all over the world, looking at both seasonal and potentially pandemic strains. For seasonal flu, we monitor changes in the circulating viruses to inform the WHO’s recommendations on which viruses to vaccinate against. When we receive a potentially pandemic strain, we analyse the virus in the lab and advise the WHO on its properties and the risk it could pose. Examples of such animal viruses posing a threat to human health include the recent ‘swine flu’ and ‘bird flu’ viruses.