Vaccine research gets a shot in the arm
June 12, 2013
It's a fact too easily overlooked: vaccines are huge life-savers. They prevent up to 3 million deaths a year, according to the World Health Organization. That's pretty impressive, and there is much more to come. Advances in biotechnology are giving vaccine research a shot in the arm, increasing the opportunities to develop new vaccines – and careers.
As Edward Jenner discovered more than 200 years ago, exposing people to a harmless pathogen can offer them protection against a dangerous, related one. Back then, Jenner injected people with cowpox to protect them against the much more harmful smallpox. In the intervening centuries, we became adept at making vaccines from dangerous microbes that we had first made harmless.
"It was a very simple approach. You attenuated or killed the pathogen, and that was your vaccine," says Margaret Ackerman at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire...