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A New Hope

In its broadest context, the goal of vaccination is to establish a protective immunological barrier that will either prevent or curtail infection. For centuries, mankind has manipulated the immune system to achieve this outcome, with many examples of remarkable success, including the eradication of smallpox in 1979. For a considerable period of time, the approach to vaccination was largely empirical. Our detailed fundamental understanding of the mechanisms of vaccination in humans, even for the most successful of vaccines, is sparse. Despite the undoubted success of vaccination, current vaccinology has thus far failed to have any impact on many globally devastating diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. Following identification and confirmation of HIV as the causative agent of AIDS in 1983, confidence in the prior success of many vaccination strategies led to public proclamation of ambitious targets of achievement, promising the availability of an effective preventive HIV vaccine for testing within two years. Today, still in the absence of an HIV vaccine, we have come to realise that to continue the success of vaccination, we must make a return to basic research, and embrace innovation and interdisciplinary research. In general, formulation sciences and the field of drug delivery have an immense role to play in the future of vaccine research. This article explores the increasing potential of controlled release drug delivery systems and formulations for HIV-1 vaccine development, and places some emphasis on the potentially female-controlled cervicovaginal route of administration.


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Dr Rhonda M Curran obtained a degree in Biological Sciences from the School of Biological Sciences at the Queen’s University of Belfast (QUB) in 2002. She continued within the school, and was awarded a PhD in immunodiagnostics in 2007. After two years employed as a post-doctoral research fellow, researching novel antigen design and delivery strategies for sustained mucosal protection against HIV-1 infection, she was appointed as a lecturer in Macromolecular Drug Delivery in the Drug Delivery and Biomaterials Research Group of the School of Pharmacy at QUB in March 2009. A member of the UK and Ireland Controlled Release Society, she continues to research novel delivery strategies for mucosal vaccination against HIV-1 infection, with current emphasis on DNA vaccination at mucosal surfaces.

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