In the 20th century between 300 and 500 million people died from smallpox, an infectious disease now eradicated by vaccination. Without vaccines there would be much more cases of infectious diseases everywhere in the world. But we need still more vaccines and some vaccines should be improved.
Look at the numbers (WHO, 2012):
HIV/AIDS:1.7 million deaths
Malaria:627 000 deaths
Tuberculosis:1.3 million deaths
Vaccine development is a long (about 16 years) and expensive (several 100 millions €) process. It is also a complicated process with several players. Universities, public research institutes and biotech companies are involved in early stage research (discovery). Often they continue to test vaccines in animals, providing proof of principle for efficacy and safety. Pharmaceutical companies usually carry out the clinical studies to test the vaccines and produce vaccines. Finally, government agencies decide whether the safety and efficacy of a vaccine is sufficient before admitting it to the market.
Almost everybody has come in contact with vaccines, but to improve vaccines and to develop new vaccines, vaccine specialists with knowledge on the entire process of vaccine development are needed. Therefore, we started ‘VacTrain’, an EU-funded training network consisting of 8 academic and industrial partners in vaccine research and development. VacTrain started in 2012. 11 young researchers are presently working on their PhD studies and are at the same time trained to become vaccinologists. In later blogs you will hear more from them. We will also update you on new developments from within the Vaccine World.
Authors: Dr. Wendy van Hemmen and Prof. Ben van der Zeijst