Scientist in lab
A lab technician in Rixensart, Belgium

Vaccines of tomorrow

Join our leading scientists as they go behind the science of vaccine technology.

It was more than 200 years ago that Edward Jenner became the first person to successfully develop a vaccine. The basic concepts Jenner used in that first vaccine against smallpox are still widely used today, but there is more to do.

Vaccines are essential to helping us fight against infectious disease.

  • 5%

    In 1918, Spanish Flu was thought to have killed 5% of the world’s population.

Fast forward to today, and we have vaccines widely available for many of the most common illnesses, such as measles and mumps.

This shift in vaccine development allows us to work on potential solutions for global health threats and emergencies, such as newly emerging flu strains and future influenza pandemics, that have previously been deemed impossible.  

Did you know that getting vaccinated can help protect those around you?

Dr Fabiana Baldoni, Strategic Alignment Lead at GSK R&D centre in Italy, explains how vaccination can help reduce the risk of disease by creating something known as ‘community immunity’.

With these significant advancements in scientific understanding, technical innovation and manufacturing, we have never been in a better position to tackle public health challenges affecting people of all ages, across the globe.

Still, there are many diseases that cannot be prevented by vaccines.

Our network of over 2,000 passionate experts across three global R&D centres are using new technologies and unique partnerships to discover and develop vaccines to help prevent disease, as well as treat existing conditions.

We’ve also expanded the scope of our vaccine research to think about what vaccines of the future might look like, and how to vaccinate people to help protect them across different life stages and ages.  This exceptional range of technologies we use to develop new vaccines allow us to potentially test faster, ease production, lower costs and address unmet medical needs.

Adjuvants, SAM (Self Amplifying Messenger RNA), Bioconjugates, GMMA (Generalized Modules for Membrane Antigens) and Chad (Chimpanzee adenovirus) are just a few of the examples of the technology we use. Using SAM technology platform, for example, we can take part of the code of a virus and produce the messenger RNA molecule. Once injected in the body of the vaccinated patient, the cells of the recipient begin to produce the vaccine. It’s really the factory of the vaccine.

Is the golden age of vaccine development over?

Watch Dr Emmanuel Hanon, Senior Vice President, Head of Vaccines R&D, GSK Vaccines, discuss how revolutionary advances in science and technology are helping GSK to create new vaccines for several infectious diseases.

While traditional methods of vaccine development have been effective for certain diseases, not all diseases respond to vaccines in the same way. However, advances in science and technology are helping us to better understand the genetic make-up of these diseases and create innovative vaccines where there were none before.

For example, reverse vaccinology, an approach pioneered by our chief scientist, Rino Rappouli, has helped to create a vaccine for meningococcus B bacteria, which is a common cause of meningitis. The principle behind reverse vaccinology is that by decoding the genomic sequence of the bacteria, our scientists are able to identify potential antigens – the substances that induce an immune response in the body – common to Meningitis B strains and use these as a basis to develop new vaccines.

How do you create a vaccine when traditional methods don’t work?

Dr Mariagrazia Pizza, Senior Scientific Director, Bacterial Vaccines, explains how GSK uses innovative techniques to create new vaccines to treat serious diseases where there is unmet medical need.

Some new technologies can take years to develop; for more than 20 years we have been working on Adjuvant Systems, a technology that enhances the immune system’s response to a vaccine. This has made it possible to develop vaccines that target specific age groups, such as older people. As we age, so does our immune system, which means a vaccine may require the boosting effect of an adjuvant to help make it work more effectively.

What are adjuvants?

How can adjuvant systems be used to enhance the body’s immune response to vaccines? Watch Dr Arnaud Didierlaurent, Head of Adjuvant Platforms, GSK Vaccines, explore this topic.

Helping to contain the spread of disease via vaccination is a significant benefit to societal health. It’s why we are committed to improving access to our vaccines in partnership with key organisations such as UNICEF, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation by providing discounted vaccines for refugees or working with other organisations to develop a malaria vaccine. 

And while significant challenges remain to prevent disease, improved understanding and capabilities in vaccine development means there is more exciting science and technology to come.

Find out more about the science behind vaccines on YouTube.