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Vaccines are our best protection against infectious disease and offer hope as immunotherapeutic approaches for the treatment of allergy, autoimmunity, cancer and other diseases. In this special supplement we review vaccine research and development and highlight some of the obstacles and opportunities in this field.
Infectious diseases are thought to account for nearly 25% of all deaths worldwide, and extract a disproportionate toll in developing countries1. Moreover, infectious diseases are now appreciated to be major causes of the poverty and economic underdevelopment that characterize the world's poorest countries2. Development and deployment of new vaccines to prevent infectious diseases in developing countries have therefore become high priorities in the global health agenda.
The challenges of vaccine development are not limited to identification of suitable antigens, adjuvants and delivery methods, but include regulatory, technical and manufacturing hurdles in translating a vaccine candidate to the clinic. Process development is the technological foundation that underlies the manufacture of new vaccines and is central to successful commercialization.
Preventive vaccines are widely acknowledged as the best hope for protection against infectious pathogens such as avian flu, HIV and SARS. As a result, they have received much recent attention in the media that has exposed some of the challenges involved in optimally using vaccine technology.