On Preparing for Flu Season-I believe we’ve been somewhat complacent about the morbidity and mortality of seasonal flu. We get very excited when there appears to be a threat of a pandemic flu. Since 2005, we’ve been concerned about the H5N1 bird flu, which killed a lot of birds, but rarely jumped species to infect humans. Last fall, we had a regular flu season. As the flu season ended in March-April of 2009, we started to see cases of a brand-new “swine flu,” which is the H1N1. This variant first appeared in Mexico, then [spread] throughout the U.S. and globally. This has real pandemic potential, because it can spread very easily from person to person. We’re watching that very closely. Part of pandemic influenza preparedness is to [build] the infrastructure to develop vaccines as rapidly as we can—to develop a new pipeline of drugs to treat influenza.
On the Future of Vaccinology-I think the future of vaccinology is very bright because [of] the technological advances, particularly in the arena of genomics and the spin-offs of genomics. These will give us the opportunity to develop vaccines against important infectious diseases. If you look at the three big global killers right now in certain countries in the developing world, more than 50 percent of the people in a particular society die either of HIV/AIDS, TB, or malaria. We don’t have vaccines against any of those three great killers. We also have a number of other infections that we need to develop vaccines against, and there are even noninfectious diseases, such as certain cancers, where there’s a very important effort to try and develop vaccines. So, the future of vaccinology is challenged by a lot of important goals that we need to fulfill. That’s the sobering part of that, that they’re very important and serious challenges. The good news is that the technology we’re involved with right now is opening doors for us that we never imagined.
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