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The New Vaccines

Genomic vaccines are poised to make a splash, writes Geoffrey Ling from the Uniformed Services University of Health Science and Johns Hopkins University at Scientific American.

"Genomic vaccines promise to offer many advantages, including fast manufacture when a virus, such as Zika or Ebola, suddenly becomes more virulent or widespread," Ling says.

Rather than being made up of weakened or killed viruses or their antigens, genomic vaccines include DNA or RNA that encode proteins, Ling says. Then the cells of the person receiving the vaccine make the proteins.

At the same time, Ling says that genomics is also enabling a different kind of vaccine called a passive immune transfer. In that, gene sequences encoding antibodies — identified from resistant people — are given to patients rather than antigens.

A number of clinical trials testing safety and immunogenicity are ongoing for bird flu, HIV, Ebola, and more, he says.