The Vaccine Revolution

Comments Off on The Vaccine Revolution
The Vaccine Revolution

In the recent debates about the quality of health care, its availability, and its cost, it is striking that the major focus was on the mechanisms of payment rather than on actually trying to achieve improved outcomes at lower costs. 

Unless inhibited by regulatory and litigation barriers, stem cell technology, personal genomics, and nanotech-based therapeutic and diagnostic systems — combined with disruptive business models — will dramatically lower the cost of healthcare beginning in the coming decade.  Medicine, in other words, is fast being transformed from an art or a craft into a standardized technology, and standardized technologies inevitably experience dramatic declines in price as they improve in quality and availability. 

A driving force behind this trend will be the ability not just to cure, but to prevent, disease.  This will not only dramatically reduce the direct costs, but by avoiding side effects, it will eliminate indirect suffering and the related costs. 

Over the past century, nothing has done more to prevent disease and promote good health than vaccines.  Today, it's hard to imagine that Native American civilization was decimated by smallpox, that bubonic plague killed nearly one-third of the European population, or that as recently as 50 years ago, Americans were left paralyzed by the effects of polio. 

The recent H1N1 flu scare brought back memories of the great 1919 pandemic that killed tens of millions, including the two founders of the Dodge automobile company in the same week.  Mumps, measles and whooping cough were all major threats. 

Despite the enormous progress of the past century, the HIV AIDS pandemic now threatens to kill off a whole generation in Africa.  But there is now hope for a vaccine even against that deadly disease. 

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health recently announced in the journal Nature Medicine1 that they have found a new way to fight the HIV virus.  Most vaccines against viruses depend on developing proteins called antibodies, which kill off viruses.  But attempts to do this for HIV have not worked. 

In fact, the researchers found that some people naturally make antibodies against HIV.  The trouble is that the human immune system makes antibodies only when it is exposed to an invading organism — in this case, the HIV virus — and it often takes time to make those antibodies.  In the case of HIV, by the time the antibodies are available, the virus is too well-established for them to combat the disease. 

The hope now is that a vaccine made of those antibodies could trigger the immune system to make more antibodies before a person is exposed to the disease...

To continue reading, become a paid subscriber for full access.
Already a Trends Magazine subscriber? Login for full access now.

Subscribe for as low as $195/year

  • Get 12 months of Trends that will impact your business and your life
  • Gain access to the entire Trends Research Library
  • Optional Trends monthly CDs in addition to your On-Line access
  • Receive our exclusive "Trends Investor Forecast 2015" as a free online gift
  • If you do not like what you see, you can cancel anytime and receive a 100% full refund