Recombinant and epitope-based vaccines on the road to the market and implications for vaccine design and production
Novel vaccination approaches based on rational design of B- and T-cell epitopes – epitope-based vaccines – are making progress in the clinical trial pipeline. The epitope-focused recombinant protein-based malaria vaccine (termed RTS,S) is a next-generation approach that successfully reached phase-III trials, and will potentially become the first commercial vaccine against a human parasitic disease. Progress made on methods such as recombinant DNA technology, advanced cell-culture techniques, immunoinformatics and rational design of immunogens are driving the development of these novel concepts. Synthetic recombinant proteins comprising both B- and T-cell epitopes can be efficiently produced through modern biotechnology and bioprocessing methods, and can enable the induction of large repertoires of immune specificities. In particular, the inclusion of appropriate CD4+ T-cell epitopes is increasingly considered a key vaccine component to elicit robust immune responses, as suggested by results coming from HIV-1 clinical trials. In silico strategies for vaccine design are under active development to address genetic variation in pathogens and several broadly protective “universal” influenza and HIV-1 vaccines are currently at different stages of clinical trials. Other methods focus on improving population coverage in target populations by rationally considering specificity and prevalence of the HLA proteins, though a proof-of-concept in humans has not been demonstrated yet. Overall, we expect immunoinformatics and bioprocessing methods to become a central part of the next-generation epitope-based vaccine development and production process.