Important Historical and Sociological perspective on current and future vaccination technology

Historically vaccines are thought of as one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine, as is shown by the eradication of Smallpox, near eradication of Polio, and the controlling of Hepatitis A/B, typhus, and rotavirus. However, certain major diseases still remain, such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and Malaria; diseases that if a vaccination were to be developed, would be monumental.

In a sociological perspective the human race has been proceeding into a new era following the successful deciphering of the human genome, an era centered on major biotechnological advances that will greatly impact our lives.

How do these perspective tie together?

A traditional vaccine is created by use of a live or weakened variation of the disease which is introduced into a person and creates an immunity to the pathogen should the person be infected in the future. While effective, these weakened vaccines carry a risk that the introduced pathogen can revert to its dangerous form and cause the disease in the vaccine recipient. A second form of traditional vaccination attempts to introduce a dead variation of the pathogen into the recipient to build an immunity, however they are ineffective at generating specific immune responses to many diseases. These are prevention vaccines.

With the decoding of the human genome we now understand and have the capability to advance medicine through the use of gene therapy, which has been applied through the creation of a new vaccination method known as DNA vaccination.

In DNA vaccination a section of DNA that has been genetically engineered to produce an ability to kill a virus already present. This synthetic DNA therapeutic vaccine is injected into the cells of the body, where the hosts body reads this DNA and uses it as a blueprint to create immune cells, called “killer T cells”. This has been proven to be a safe method of vaccination as there are no weakened forms of the virus being introduced to the vaccine recipient that is able to potentially revert to its dangerous form. Rather, there are non-infectious virus like particles that generate the immune response. It is also remarkably more effective as it can target multiple strains of a disease (such as HIV) instead of being developed for each concurrent strain as it mutates. While still under development for use in humans, DNA vaccines have been approved for use in animals, specifically the treatment of infectious hematopoietic necrosis vaccine for salmon [Novartis (NVS)] and for West Nile Virus in Horses [Pfizer (PFE)].

GenePro® is a therapeutic DNA vaccine that generated viral like particles to allow the body to develop killer T cells and memory T cells specific to HIV.