Precision Vaccines Program | Overview
Based in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Boston Children’s Hospital, the Precision Vaccines Program (PVP) fosters international collaboration among academia, government and industry to employ advanced technologies to discover and develop vaccines tailored to protect vulnerable populations such as the very young and the elderly. Program members have domain expertise in vaccinology, clinical trials, immunology, molecular biology, administration, data management, biostatistics, bioinformatics, and systems biology.
Applying Precision Medicine to Vaccinology
- There is a growing realization that vaccine responses vary with an individual’s characteristics including age, sex, and environmental setting.
- As defined by the National Research Council, precision medicine refers to the tailoring of medical treatment to the individual characteristics of a patient.
- In the context of vaccines, precision medicine principles can be applied to classify individuals into subpopulations that differ in their susceptibility to a particular disease and in their response to a given vaccine.
- This precision vaccines approach will enable design of vaccines optimized for vulnerable populations at greatest risk of infection such as the young and the elderly as well as those with chronic disease.
Infectious Causes of Death are Most Common at the Extremes of Age
A high proportion of all deaths in early life are due to infection. The risk of dying from infection is a function of age, with the greatest risk concentrated in the very young and the elderly. There is an unmet need for safe and effective vaccine formulations to protect populations with distinct immunity: newborns/infants, pregnant mothers and the elderly.
In applying precision medicine to vaccinology, the PVP employs several emerging concepts, approaches, and technologies that accelerate and de-risk development of vaccines tailored for distinct populations:
- In vitro modeling of human immune responses to characterize sub-population-specific responses and identify new adjuvants and adjuvanted vaccine formulations as benchmarked to licensed vaccines.
- Leveraging heterologous/trained immunity: Live attenuated vaccines such as BCG (Mycobacterium bovis) activate multiple PRRs and may have possible beneficial heterologous effects, especially in early life.
- Use of big data/global molecular/OMIC approaches to characterize molecular signatures corresponding to vaccine correlates of protection.
- Discovery and development of adjuvants, small molecules that can boost immune responses in a population specific manner: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/sites/default/files/NIAIDStrategicPlanVaccineAdjuvants2018.pdf.
Donate to support vaccine discovery
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Precision Vaccines Program (PVP) at Boston Children’s is on the front lines of developing a coronavirus vaccine targeted especially toward older populations, who are at greatest risk. The Program also develops vaccines to protect against influenza, HIV, pertussis (whooping cough) and opioid use. Support this urgent lifesaving work by making a gift today.
It is hard to overstate the beneficial impact of immunization on global health. Vaccines have been key to ending and/or preventing disease outbreaks in the United States, including polio, measles, and whooping cough. Once common invasive bacterial diseases of infancy that can cause meningitis, bloodstream infection or pneumonia, such as Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae, have been greatly diminished since institution of routine childhood immunization against these pathogens. Vaccination protects our children, their grandparents and members of our communities who may have chronic illness and/or may be immunocompromised.