Living Systems


Technical Applications


Vaccines for prevention are a cost-effective way to control or even eradicate selected infectious diseases.


The classical approaches to vaccine development were based on stimulating the body's immune system with attenuated living pathogens (measles, polio, tuberculosis) or with killed infectious agents--a protein from the pathogen and an adjuvant (diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough).


Vaccine development makes an immediate and critical contribution to the health of the U.S. population. Given the scientific basis on which vaccines are developed, it also contributes to the goal of retaining U.S. world leadership in science, mathematics, and engineering. Vaccines also have significant implications for national security by protecting U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines during peacekeeping and other missions, and by assuring the health of their families while they are on deployment.


There is little commercial interest in the development or production of vaccines for diseases that do not afflict developed countries because of the inability of companies of to recoup their investment. Work in this area is performed predominately by smaller biotechnology firms which form marketing and distribution alliances with larger firms to support clinical trials. The NIH is the world's largest funder of vaccine research, spending more than $300 million annually. The Walter Reed Army Institute for Research is also a major research funder.