I’m currently attending the World Vaccine Congress 2018 in Washington. These are conferences that I attend every few years with a view to catch up and beef up my network, hear the latest musings from the sector’s thought leaders and also find out about the latest technologies that are being used in the production of vaccines globally. Obviously the meeting in Washington is very US centric and stands apart from its sister conference in Barcelona.

As previously, a number of sector ‘big hitters’ were attending with the meeting chaired by Dr. Greg Poland who is the Director of the Vaccine research group at the Mayo clinic. Dr. Carl Irving, emeritus chief from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research gave an interesting talk on adjuvant development. However, the highlight of his talk was his anecdotes, experience and photographs of a 70 year old’s experience (his) of a Shingles outbreak and how it led to him to being dosed with GSK’s Shingrix, which sounds to me more like a cult breakfast cereal than a vaccine.  However, post vaccination it still took up to 2 months for the symptoms to disappear.

I attended a plenary panel on the topic of responding to the next emerging disease globally.  A topic which I’ve previously covered with respect to the need and how it is being met.  A panel that included Dr. Nicole Lurie, an advisor to CEPI, Dr. Stan Plotkin and Dr. Peter Hotez from the Baylor College of Medicine.  In essence the discussion flowed around emerging infectious diseases and how they can be rapidly reacted to when an outbreak erupts and how CEPI had begun to award funding, including to Themis.    There were also a few diseases mentioned that are certainly less well known (this is amongst diseases that are already relatively obscure) such as Schistosomiasis and Leishmaniasis, both which typically aren’t fatal, but effect millions of people in poorer regions of the world.  They can devastate peoples’ lives.  The point being is that it might not cause high mortality, but the impact and sheer number of people impacted (just type Leishmaniasis into Google and brace yourself for the images that come back) should propel it up towards the top of the priorities for global initiatives.

Finally, there was a talk from Dr. Bruce Gellin from the Sabin Vaccine Institute.  He spoke about the role of vaccines to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  This wasn’t using a vaccine as an antibiotic per se, but instead saying that by using vaccines you won’t need to use the antibiotics, particularly for diseases that are showing high levels of resistance.  The thrust of the talk being that a multi-faceted approach is needed given that in the not too distant future, based on our current course, it is being predicted that antibiotic resistance will kill more people than cancer.  In closing, I thought the statement Bruce made said it all – ‘what you prevent, you don’t have to treat’.