Despite many accomplishments in vaccine research over the years, much remains to be done. NIAID-supported investigators in the United States and other countries and in NIAID laboratories in Bethesda, Maryland, and Hamilton, Montana, are working to reduce the burden of illness by helping to develop vaccines against diseases old and new.
NIAID has three broad goals in vaccine research:
- Identify new vaccine candidates to prevent diseases for which no vaccines currently exist.
- Improve the safety and efficacy of existing vaccines.
- Design novel vaccine approaches, such as new delivery systems and adjuvants.
To achieve these goals, NIAID conducts and supports basic and applied research in fields such as immunology, microbiology, and disease pathology.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world suffer illness and death from HIV/AIDS and from the ancient scourges of malaria and tuberculosis. For this reason, NIAID has made developing new or improved vaccines for these illnesses a top priority. Other priorities include vaccine research on disease-causing agents that either arise naturally, such as dengue virus and the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, or that might be deliberately released in an act of bioterrorism, such as the smallpox virus. Finding ways to more quickly produce vaccines against strains of influenza that occur seasonally and those that experts fear may spark a pandemic is another priority area in which NIAID-supported researchers are making progress.
Vaccines against such emerging microbes must be safe, easy to administer, and fast-acting—even to the point of providing immunity shortly after exposure to the microbe. In addition to developing vaccines against classic infectious diseases, NIAID and other government agencies are working to develop new and improved vaccines against chronic diseases with infectious origins as well as autoimmune diseases and other immune-mediated conditions.