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European Biopharmaceutical Review

The Future of Vaccination




Today, it is estimated that vaccines save more than 2.5 million lives each year (1). Given the tremendous success of vaccines, it may seem strange that we are facing a controversy regarding their role in modern society. Vaccines are similarly experiencing a decline in the commercial sector with some companies exiting the space and innovation lagging behind. Innovation is critical to realise the full potential of vaccines, but the current system of discovery and development may not be fostering it as well as it could.

Need for Vaccine Innovation

Influenza vaccines provide protection against infection, and importantly, decrease the associated morbidity and mortality. Nevertheless, despite protecting against 7 million illnesses in the 2017-2018 flu season alone, the average effectiveness of influenza vaccines between 2004 and 2017 was only 41%, and in some years the effectiveness dropped to as low as 10% (2-3). Moreover, the vaccine must be taken annually as it is continually updated to keep pace with the constant evolution of the influenza virus. Significant innovation in influenza vaccines has been largely absent despite the FDA approval of three new types of influenza vaccines in the last seven years – one using a recombinant antigen, another based on a mammalian cell culture manufacturing process instead of the traditional egg-based process, and a third that includes an adjuvant to boost the immune response to the vaccine (4-6). Improving the overall effectiveness of influenza vaccines is important for their yearly use as a seasonal vaccine, not only to provide better protection to the population, but also to increase influenza vaccine coverage, which was only 45% for adults during the 2018-2019 flu season in the US (7). Critically, improved influenza vaccines are also needed in response to an influenza pandemic. During an influenza pandemic, the population has little baseline immunity to the circulating influenza virus, and it is expected that two doses of the current vaccine types would be required for adequate protection. The development of more effective influenza vaccines that provide pandemic protection after a single dose could dramatically slow the spread of the infection through the population.

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Dr Scot Roberts PhD is the Chief Scientific Officer of Altimmune and has more than 24 years of experience in small molecule and biologics development in the areas of vaccines, viral vectors, and antiviral therapies. He previously served as Chief Scientific Officer for ImQuest BioSciences, where he led initiatives in cancer and antivirals. Scot also held R&D leadership positions at Wellstat Biologics Corporation, where he managed a portfolio of biologic oncology candidates, animal pharmacology programmes, and led bioassay and upstream process development. Scot has a PhD in Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, US.
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