Tuesday, June 5, 2018

SLU's 'Hotel Influenza' is a Lovely Place to Get Sick for Science

Posted By on Tue, Jun 5, 2018 at 2:04 PM

click to enlarge It’s not all pink champagne on ice, but amenities in this unorthodox staycation spot include hotel-style rooms that are equipped with private bathrooms, TV and internet. - COURTESY OF SLU'S CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT
  • Courtesy of SLU's Center for Vaccine Development
  • It’s not all pink champagne on ice, but amenities in this unorthodox staycation spot include hotel-style rooms that are equipped with private bathrooms, TV and internet.

At “Hotel California,” you can check out anytime you like, but at Saint Louis University's new Hotel Influenza, they ask you to stay for about ten days.

Hotel Influenza is the nickname for the Extended Stay Research Unit, the newest addition to SLU’s Center for Vaccine Development. At this newly developed spot, the Jesuit university will be conducting “human challenge” experiments with help from volunteers who want to be a part of the potential development of a universal flu vaccine.


Influenza kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, making the creation of a vaccine a top priority for public health researchers and scientists. Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D. and director of SLU’s Center for Vaccine Development, says that the Extended Stay Research Unit will allow SLU to take its research to the next level. Basically, they're going to use it to try out some new vaccines — and if they don't work, yeah, you might get sick and regret your time living life in the fast lane.


The 24-room research center is a converted hotel in SLU’s Salus Center and it will be used “to house volunteers who will be intentionally exposed to influenza to see if investigational vaccines keep them from getting sick.” Basically, volunteers are given either a vaccine or a placebo and then are exposed to a strain of the influenza virus. After that, they just wait and see if they get sick. If not, they'll just get to chill and *ahem* take it easy for a week or so. There’s no way of knowing which way your stay will go. As the Eagles sang, “This could be heaven or this could be hell.”

During their time at the center, participants will be observed and tested and kept in the center. It's a closed unit with a sophisticated HVAC system and a series of other barriers to ensure public safety and give everyone on the outside a peaceful easy feeling. Those who are infected won't be released to go home until their bodies are confirmed to be cleared of the virus for two days.

Now, if this sounds like a raw (and boring) deal, guess again: SLU says that volunteers for human challenge studies “typically receive compensation of about $3,500 for their time and travel” and that “nurses are in the unit around the clock to monitor and care for them.” And though it’s not all pink Champagne on ice, amenities in this unorthodox staycation spot include hotel-style rooms that are equipped with private bathrooms, TV and internet.

To learn more about how you might be able to volunteer to assist with the advancement of science, visit vaccine.slu.edu. You’re probably going to get the flu, anyway, you might as well get paid for it.

click to enlarge Not too shabby - COURTESY OF SLU'S CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT
  • Courtesy of SLU's Center for Vaccine Development
  • Not too shabby

click to enlarge You can enjoy this beautiful view of the arch while you barf (or not) - COURTESY OF SLU'S CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT
  • Courtesy of SLU's Center for Vaccine Development
  • You can enjoy this beautiful view of the arch while you barf (or not)

click to enlarge Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., directs SLU's Center for Vaccine Development - ELLEN HUTTI
  • ELLEN HUTTI
  • Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., directs SLU's Center for Vaccine Development

Email the author at jaime.lees@riverfronttimes.com
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