Scientists in Seattle hope to pioneer a more “rational” approach to vaccine development, exploiting powerful computers to better identify immune system targets and reduce the huge burden (and cost) of clinical testing.
“I intend to focus first on malaria vaccines,” said Alan Aderem, an internationally recognized immunologist who will soon be taking the helm of Seattle BioMed. Aderem co-authored a paper in this week’s edition of Nature in which he outlines a new strategy aimed at discovering vaccines against HIV, TB and malaria.
Arguably, the ways in which researchers test and develop vaccines against disease today haven’t changed that much since the 18-century British physician Edward Jenner injected a young man with cowpox to see if it would protect him from smallpox. It did and, so the story goes, vaccines and the science of immunology were born.
Scientists certainly have more sophisticated tools and methods today, but testing a vaccine is still often a “shot in the dark” because of our incomplete understanding of how the immune response works. Continue reading