Novel vaccine technologies are crucial in improving the public health response to infectious disease threats, according to experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The team highlights innovations that could significantly shorten the typical decades-long vaccine development timeline in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Historically, vaccines against viral diseases have used live-attenuated (weakened) viruses or inactivated whole viruses to induce protective immune responses. The development process often takes 15 to 20 years or more and requires virus cultivation, animal model testing, product formulation, immunogenicity testing and years of costly clinical trials. However, substantial technological advances of the past decade, such as synthetic vaccinology and platform manufacturing, can expedite the process and shorten manufacturing time, allowing clinical evaluation to begin sooner, according to the authors. Synthetic vaccinology uses information from viral gene sequencing to create DNA and mRNA molecules encoding viral proteins. Because this research does not require replicating "live" viruses, it does not need to be done in high-level containment facilities when developing vaccines for highly pathogenic viruses.