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Unblocking the vaccine pipeline

New approaches for speeding vaccine discovery and development proposed

John Dudley Miller(johnmiller@nasw.org)

A pair of ideas discussed at the Sixth Annual Conference on Vaccine Research in Arlington, Va., promises to dramatically shorten the frustrating, decades-long process of discovering and testing new vaccines. Proponents believe the approaches could make it possible to develop a variety of vaccines years before they would otherwise become available.

Dramatically cutting initial discovery time can be accomplished by searching for potential antigens in the genome using a computer rather than in the lab using traditional methods, according to Rino Rappuoli, head of research and development at Chiron Vaccines in Sienna, Italy.

"The genome has provided us all we need, for every pathogen," said Rappuoli, the technique's pioneer. The "old method" of conducting years of painstaking basic lab research to understand a pathogen before creating its vaccine is no longer necessary, he claimed.

Speeding up vaccine development can also be accomplished by improving researchers' basic understanding of the manufacturing...

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