We have record or near-record low levels of vaccine-preventable diseases, but that does not mean these diseases have disappeared. Many of the viruses and bacteria that cause illness still circulate in the world, or, are only a plane ride away. Researchers are finding ways to use the immune-system-triggering effects of vaccines to tackle unexpected diseases, such as cancer and drug addiction. Drug research is poised to take off with immunotherapeutic treatments for these diseases:
Vaccines being developed
- Cancer. According to Stanley Marks, chairman of the UPMC CancerCenter, it is the treatments which marshal the body’s immune system to attack and destroy cancerous cells, that represent the single most promising new front in the war on cancer. Vaccines are on the horizon that could pinpoint cancer mutations and amplifying the body’s immune system to fight off certain types of cancer cells.
- HIV. Researchers have created a preventative HIV vaccine using a genetically modified killed whole-virus, the first to receive approval by the FDA to proceed to Phase II of human clinical trials. It will be tested on 600 people this year.
- Gonorrhea. The World Health Organization is calling for a vaccine. Researchers in New Zealand discovered the same bacteria that causes meningitis also causes gonorrhea. This is a breakthrough to create a vaccine that will target gonorrhea.
- Malaria. Three countries are set to take part in a pilot program for a malaria vaccine starting in 2018, the World Health Organization said in a news release. Such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.
- Ebola. A early-stage trial of 75 healthy volunteers found that the vaccine gave an immune response for a full year in 100% of the patients. A larger-scale trial will have to prove if the longer-lasting vaccine is effective at preventing the disease.
- Norovirus. A company called Vaxart is developing a tablet vaccine that could prevent the virus, announcing that the drug had been a success in an early trial in humans, proving to be both safe and capable of spurring an immune response.
- Universal flu virus. Researchers at vaccine-maker Sanofi are getting closer to a universal vaccine that might provide broader protection against the flu. Based on the results of animal studies, a universal flu vaccine may use a two-step vaccination strategy-priming with a DNA-based HA vaccine followed by a second dose with an inactivated, attenuated, or adenovirus-vector–based vaccine.
- Heroin addiction. “A vaccine would work by destroying heroin that’s injected into the body before it gets a chance to get to the brain and give a patients a high,” Opiant CEO Roger Crystal, whose company is developing one of the possible vaccines, told Business Insider. The heroin vaccine, should it go to market, would not be the first pharmacological attempt to treat addiction.
- Zika. The start of a phase 2 trial, which will evaluate whether the vaccine is effective in 2,490 people in the US and Central and South America. It’s expected to wrap up in 2019. Writing in the journal Nature on Tuesday, a U.S.-Brazilian team of scientists reported that two distinct vaccine candidates conferred powerful protection from Zika infection when each was delivered by intra-muscular injection to mice.
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