As viral pandemics and drug resistant bacteria become more common, it is imperative that the pharmaceutical industry increases its efforts to develop truly revolutionary treatments to combat infectious diseases. One area of focus is the development of new prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines.
When a pandemic strikes, the traditional vaccine development and manufacturing process is cumbersome and time consuming, often leading to gaps in protecting large portions of our population. There is a tremendous need for safer, more effective, shelf-stable, and easy-to-administer (needle-free) vaccines that can easily be stockpiled and rapidly deployed outside the current healthcare system. This is arguably more important in the developing world, where populations are at greater risk of contracting transmissible diseases and generally lack adequate trained healthcare personnel to handle pandemics.
Nanoemulsion-based vaccine adjuvants are an area of research that has great potential to address these needs and lead to breakthrough therapeutic and prophylactic treatments.
The development of unique vaccines with exceptional safety profiles is a very high priority because of the tremendous potential for preventing infections and saving lives, while avoiding the risks that are keeping parents from vaccinating their children. I contracted pertussis (“Whooping cough”) last summer after caring for an unimmunized child, and these cases are becoming more common. In 2011, I hope the medical community will develop innovative new vaccine platforms that address the both the medical and the social problems with vaccination.
[Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of posts from Xconomists and other technology and life sciences leaders from around the U.S. who are weighing in with the top surprises they’ve seen in their respective fields in the past year, or the major things to watch for in 2011.]