‘A golden age of vaccinology’: Gene-based vaccines can combat infectious diseases of the future

Credit: Lipskiy/Mad Dog/Shutterstock/Atlantic
Credit: Lipskiy/Mad Dog/Shutterstock/Atlantic

Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, which was authorized [February 27] for use in the U.S., is at the vanguard of a class of shots designed to mobilize a person’s immune defenses against the disease. It will be the first Covid-19 vaccine administered in the U.S. that uses viral-vector technology, which employs an engineered cold virus to ferry coronavirus-fighting genetic code to the body’s cells.

“This is one of those giant leap moments for us. These are fundamental shifts in how we will build vaccines for the future,” said C. Buddy Creech, director of Vanderbilt University’s vaccine research program. “I think this really ushers in a golden age of vaccinology.”

New vaccine technologies spurred by the pandemic are leading efforts to combat Covid-19 and herald a new arsenal of weapons for fighting lethal viruses in the future, infectious-disease researchers said, another example of how the fight against Covid has supercharged technological development.

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“The beauty is that you use natural systems, which are optimized by millions of years of evolution, to deliver what you want to have your body respond to,” said Vincent Munster, chief of the virus ecology section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which helped with the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

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