There are currently 124 vaccines in development for infectious diseases (ID) and another 105 vaccines in development for cancer, according to a report from the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
Researchers are working on development of vaccines for both the prevention and treatment of everything from peanut hypersensitivity, allergic rhinitis, breast cancer, glioblastoma, colon cancer, West Nile virus, prostate cancer, hepatitis B and many, many more diseases.
Although vaccine research is a global effort, most of the research is taking place in the U.S. In fact, according to PhRMA, more than two-thirds of the new vaccines introduced in the last 25 years have been developed in the U.S.
Although most of the attention-grabbing headlines about vaccine development have focused on the heroic efforts of researchers working around the clock to beat back pandemic scourges like the Ebola and Zika viruses, or the well-funded quest for an AIDS vaccine, vaccine development is one of the most dynamic, multifaceted areas of R&D, with the potential to address diseases across therapeutic categories, from tropical diseases, to common allergies, to cancer.
And while the idea of being able to prevent or treat cancer with a vaccine seems far fetched, Provenge’s Sipuleucel-T was approved by the FDA in 2010 for treatment of prostate cancer.
Likewise, in the 1800’s when almost half a million Europeans died from smallpox, reliance on ‘smallpox deities’ trumped belief in science, yet in 1798, the first smallpox vaccine was introduced. By the late 1900’s smallpox had been eradicated and no longer exists as a threat to the human population.
Despite all of this good news, there continue to be R&D challenges. As PhRMA pointed out, vaccines must be tested in healthy human populations, so there is a built-in risk factor and numerous ethical issues to navigate. In order to circumnavigate some of these challenges, the FDA is considering use of special studies involving animal modeling. Innovation is a significant part of vaccine development, and will continue to be a driving force in improving the quality of life for people worldwide.
A list of the vaccines in development can be found here.