Systems biology key to vaccine breakthroughs?

In an article published in Nature, Seattle BioMed Director Alan Aderem and head of Novartis' vaccine division Rino Rappuoli note that news tools for vaccine development--including systems biology and structure-based antigen design--could spur research that will wipe out the scourges of malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS by 2020. Combined, those three diseases kill 5 million people worldwide each year.

"Success will be largely dependent on our ability to use novel approaches such as systems biology to analyze data sets generated during proof-of-concept trials," he explained. "This will lead to new insights such as the identification of correlates of protection or signatures of immunogenicity and the acceleration of large-scale clinical trials."

Systems biology analyzes enormous amounts of biological data to visualize and predict behavior of a biological system, explains Aderem. By predicting how a system will behave, researcher can optimize a vaccine in the earliest stages of development before it reaches expensive late-stage trials. Aderem adds that systems biology can be used to test multiple hypotheses at once, speeding clinical research. "We can accelerate clinical development by performing more efficacy trials and by improving their design using systems biology approaches to test several hypotheses in parallel and having an adaptive design to expand the outcomes that prove most promising," he notes in the article.

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- here's the article abstract