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New Chip-Based Method Could Lead to Quick Screening for New Vaccines

Vaccines are responsible for many of the dramatic public health achievements of the 20th century. But as new diseases emerge and old ones persist, finding new vaccines can be a complex and expensive endeavor. New research published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) offers a way to quickly predict how well a vaccine will work in a specific individual. The research represents an important step forward that could help streamline vaccine development, as well as help guide distribution of vaccines during a pandemic to those who will benefit most.
 
The researchers used a tool called a microarray, a tiny “lab-on-a-chip,” that can be used to generate a complete readout of an individual’s immune profile—essentially the biological signature of any disease or vaccine the person has had. Since everyone responds slightly differently to a given vaccine, the method could help researchers determine which vaccines will be effective in the greatest number of people.
 
Learn more in a PNAS blog post about the paper, or access the paper online.
 
The Koshland Science Museum’s popular interactive online exhibit, Infectious Disease: Evolving Challenges to Human Health, has more information about vaccines and human immunity.