Experts Call for "Human Vaccines Project"

A group of prominent vaccine researchers, including the Research Institute’s chief scientific officer, Philip R. Johnson, MD, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Stanley Plotkin, MD, recently called for a “human vaccines project” to accelerate the development of vaccines to prevent “major global killers such as AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other infectious diseases.”

In a recently published Science article, the authors point out that though vaccines have been extremely effective in the past, “past strategies … are unlikely to succeed in the future,” against diseases for which there remain no vaccines. While advances into vaccine discovery have been made, translation of those advances into successful vaccines “remains impeded by lack of understanding of key vaccinology principles in humans.” New clinical research initiatives should be established to accelerate vaccines development, the authors argue.

Vaccines have been responsible for marked improvements in health, quality of life, and life expectancy, but there remain many debilitating diseases for which vaccines do not exist. Chlamydia, dengue, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis C, herpes simplex, HIV/AIDS, malaria, rhinovirus, and tuberculosis are just some diseases that cannot be inoculated against.

New vaccines are clearly needed. But the development of new vaccines can be difficult, as the success rates of new vaccines are “not optimal and are even worse for the subset of complex pathogens for which viability and immune-evasion mechanisms present additional challenges,” the researchers note.

But the emergence of new technologies — such as whole-genome sequencing — is “fueling a revolution in vaccine discovery,” the researchers say. To best make use of these technological advances, and to speed the development of vaccines for diseases like dengue and malaria, they call for “new human immunology-based clinical research initiatives” to be established.

“Collectively, such a “Human Vaccines Project” holds the potential to greatly accelerate the development of next-generation vaccines against major global killers such as AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other infectious diseases; enable more successful vaccine development against allergies, autoimmune diseases, and cancers; and provide a foundation for vaccine development against new and emerging diseases,” the researchers write.

“Vaccines are the ultimate form of preventative medicine,” says CHOP’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Johnson. “We would much rather prevent diseases than treat them.”