Developing vaccines for an aging population

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Science Translational Medicine  01 Apr 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 281, pp. 281ps8
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa0722

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The demographics of the world’s population are changing, with many adults now surviving into their 80s. With this change comes the need to protect the aging and other underserved populations not only against infectious diseases but also against cancer and other chronic conditions. New technologies derived from recent advances in the fields of immunology, structural biology, synthetic biology, and genomics have brought a revolution in the vaccine field. Among them, vaccine adjuvants have the potential to harness the immune system to provide protection against new types of diseases, improve protection in young children, and expand this protection to adults and the elderly. However, in order to do so we need also to overcome the nontechnical challenges that could limit the implementation of innovative vaccines, including controversies regarding the safety of adjuvants, increasing regulatory complexity, the inadequate methods used to assess the value of novel vaccines, and the resulting industry alienation from future investment. This Perspective summarizes the outcome of a recent multidisciplinary symposium entitled “Enhancing Vaccine Immunity and Value,” held in Siena, Italy, in July 2014, that addressed two related questions: how to improve vaccine efficacy by using breakthrough technologies and how to capture the full potential of novel vaccines.

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