Vaccines for infectious diseases will continue to be a major focus, according to Dr Stanley Plotkin, but so too will be the search for vaccines against chronic conditions like cancer, hypertension and Alzheimer’s disease.
“The prospect of interfering with cancer-producing chronic infections – Epstein-Barr virus, Hepatitis and HPV [human papillomavirus] – is receiving a lot of attention. There is also a great deal of interest in vaccines against non-infectious diseases and, again, cancers are the obvious targets,” he said.
Dr Plotkin, who helped discover the rubella vaccine in the 1960s and edits the standard text book on vaccines, also expects diseases which affect the developing world to receive greater attention than in the past.
Advances in molecular biology have transformed immunisation and will lead to more vaccines for adults and adolescents, he said, adding that finding better ways to manufacture and distribute vaccines in developing world is also essential.
“I would agree that not enough people are working on infections that are primarily third world infections but there has been some progress. Think about Japanese encephalitis for which there are now two potent vaccines against the disease. Dengue fever is another example. So the picture is mixed but not entirely negative,” Dr Plotkin said.
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