Vaccine shortcuts

Making vaccines is a bad business. If you do your job well, your healthy customers may suspect that they didn’t really need that shot in the first place. And there are multiple ways to screw up: the vaccine might be ineffective, or it might cause an adverse reaction, opening you up to expensive legal attack. Then there are the business complications. If it surfaces that you developed a vaccine, but didn’t make it available for reasons of profitability, you will be pilloried by press and politicians. Altogether, the downside tends to outweigh the upside, so vaccine research hasn’t always been well-funded or hotly pursued.

Some recent research with the Ebola virus is very encouraging, though, and signifies the rise of the genomic approach to medicine. Viruses are recognized in our bodies by their surface coating. Suppose we just take a gene that codes for part of the coat of a disease-causing virus and stick that in another harmless virus? Then the harmless virus can be used to instruct the body about the evil one, just as the sheriff might wave an escaped convict’s shirt under a bloodhound’s nose. Sic ‘im, boy! Neat trick, eh? Read about it here: Fast vaccine offers hope in battle with Ebola. Here’s another good summary courtesy of Corante: But Did They Get A Cold?