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Annual Conference on Vaccine Research to Highlight Not Only Health Benefits But Also Economic Gains

BETHESDA, Md., May 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Vaccines don't just keep children healthy, they also lead to more productive adult workers who can earn higher wages and save more money, according to Dr. David E. Bloom, a labor economist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Bloom, who has studied the economic impact of vaccination in developing countries, will be the keynote speaker at the 11th Annual Conference on Vaccine Research sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). The conference will be held May 5-7 at Baltimore's Marriott Waterfront Hotel.

"A healthier population is a cornerstone of a vibrant and growing economy," Bloom said. In his analysis, Bloom turns conventional wisdom on its head. Although he agrees that higher incomes lead to better health, he also argues that better health leads to higher incomes, both for individuals and for nations. According to Bloom, "Healthier means wealthier."

Bloom believes that the economic value of vaccines has been grossly under-estimated. Typically, he said, cost-benefit studies consider the main benefits to be the direct medical costs that are averted because of vaccines. But the larger picture, he said, is that childhood vaccines lead to healthier, stronger and smarter adults who are more productive. By his estimate, in comparison with their cost, the economic benefits of vaccination equal or exceed the well-established economic benefits of education.

"We need to significantly revise the literature on the economic value of vaccines to take into account these new ideas," he said.

The three-day conference is the world's largest scientific meeting devoted exclusively to research on vaccines and related technologies for disease prevention and treatment. This year, scientists will present findings about the efficacy of a high-dose influenza vaccine for the elderly as well as advances on novel vaccines to combat everything from smoking to bio-terrorism to the spread of avian influenza (H5N1) on poultry farms.

"This is an exciting time for vaccine research," said Susan J. Rehm, MD, medical director of NFID and co-chair of the conference. "We are improving vaccines that are already in our arsenal and making progress toward introducing new vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, as well as other public-health problems."

Dr. Merieux Award to Dr. Roger I. Glass

This year's conference will honor Roger I. Glass, MD, PhD, director of the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who will receive the Charles Merieux Award for his work on rotavirus vaccines in the developing world. Each year, rotavirus kills more than 500,000 children under the age of 5 in developing countries and hospitalizes more than 55,000 children in the United States.

Dr. Glass, who is also associate director of international research at the NIH, is an expert on the prevention of gastroenteritis from rotavirus, which infects the intestinal lining. Dr. Glass established a Viral Gastroenteritis Unit at CDC which has conducted epidemiologic and laboratory research and provided leadership for the national and global rotavirus program for more than 20 years. This group has trained researchers from around the world and provided the evidence base that led to the introduction of rotavirus vaccines into the U.S. childhood immunization program and to surveillance activities for rotavirus in more than 50 countries around the world. The goal of these ongoing efforts is the ultimate prevention of rotavirus disease among children worldwide through immunization.

The Merieux Award is named in honor of Dr. Charles Merieux, a French scientist and visionary who devoted his life to the prevention of infectious diseases through vaccines. He grew the laboratory founded by his father, turning it into one of the leading vaccine manufacturing companies in the world. The company is now known as sanofi pasteur.

First Robert Austrian Memorial Lecture to Dr. Orin S. Levine

Orin S. Levine, PhD, associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, will give the conference's first Robert Austrian Memorial Lecture. Dr. Levine is an expert on respiratory infections in developing countries, including Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) and Streptococcus pneumoniae. He currently heads a $30 million effort by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization aimed at getting pneumococcal vaccine to the world's poorest countries.

The lecture is named for Dr. Robert Austrian, former chair of medical research at the University of Pennsylvania, who developed the first multivalent vaccine against pneumococcus bacteria. Dr. Austrian died in March 2007 at the age of 90.

The Merieux Award is underwritten by an unrestricted educational grant from sanofi pasteur; the Austrian Lecture and the Hilleman Award are supported by unrestricted educational grants from Merck & Co, Inc.

Dr. Barton F. Haynes, director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, will give the Mary Lou Clements-Mann Memorial Lecture on Vaccine Sciences. On Wednesday, the conference will announce this year's winner of the Maurice R. Hilleman Early Stage Career Investigator Award, which recognizes promising scientists who are just beginning their careers in vaccinology.

Anti-Smoking Vaccine Keeps Nicotine from Brain

Among the novel vaccines to be discussed at the conference is one aimed at curbing addiction to nicotine. Scientists from Nabi Biopharmaceuticals of Rockville, MD will report data showing that their experimental vaccine, NicVAX, induces antibodies that prevent nicotine from reaching the brain.

In human trials, 24 percent of 61 people who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day quit smoking for up to one year following vaccination. Others who continued smoking after vaccination smoked significantly less than they had before. The company is now analyzing results from its Phase IIB trial and plans to start a Phase III trial by the end of 2008.

One Vaccine to Combat Four Bioterrorism Agents

U.S. Army researchers will also report success in mouse experiments with a four-in-one vaccine to protect against anthrax, botulism, plague and staphylococcus -- all of which might be used as bioterrorism agents.

The vaccine, developed by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrich, MD along with BD Technologies of Research Triangle Park, NC, provided up to 100 percent protection in vaccinated mice that were challenged with the pathogens.

Researchers, who will present their data, had previously reported success in immunizing mice with separate vaccines for each pathogen. These are the first results to show efficacy with one vaccine against all four pathogens. The vaccine has been constituted as a powder allowing for long shelf life, stability at different temperatures and administration in a variety of ways including subcutaneous injection and as a nasal spray.

A Vaccine to Protect Poultry and People from Deadly Avian Influenza

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will report progress toward a DNA vaccine against highly contagious and deadly avian influenza (influenza A/H5N1) in poultry.

During an avian influenza outbreak in Southeast Asia in 2003-04, more than 100 million birds either died or had to be killed to stem the disease. In 2007, avian influenza claimed 11 million poultry. The contagion has had devastating consequences for the poultry industry and has raised concerns about transmission to humans. While the virus does not usually infect people and to-date cannot be transmitted easily from person-to-person, more than 200 human cases have been reported, mainly among people who have had close contact with poultry.

Currently, there are two licensed vaccines to combat H5N1 in poultry, but the University of Pittsburgh approach is the first to make use of non-replicating adenovirus, a common cold virus, as a delivery vehicle to deliver protein from the avian influenza virus into chicken cells. The vaccine, which was injected into the skin of chickens, induced high levels of antibodies that were capable of protecting against infection with several different strains of influenza virus.

The scientists say the genetically engineered vaccine could be produced inexpensively in large quantities for use in chickens and other poultry. If there was an outbreak in humans, the scientists believe the same vaccine could be diverted to protect people from H5N1.

High-dose Influenza Vaccine Benefits the Elderly

Several studies to be presented at the conference indicate that the elderly, who are most at risk of death from influenza, would benefit from high-dose influenza vaccine over standard dosage. One multi-center study, which involved more than 3,800 elderly persons, found significantly greater antibody responses a month after vaccination among those who got high-dose compared to standard-dose vaccine.

The study was conducted by researchers at St. Louis University, the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in St. Louis, the University of Rochester and sanofi pasteur.

About the Annual Conference on Vaccine Research

The Annual Conference on Vaccine Research provides current, high-quality reports of scientific progress featured in both invited presentations and submitted abstracts. The wide range of topics covered in both human and veterinary vaccinology offers a thorough picture of the opportunities, challenges and discoveries associated with vaccine development, production and distribution.

The conference is sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Disease (NFID) in collaboration with the Albert H. Sabin Vaccine Institute, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Center for Vaccine Development of the University of Maryland, Foundation Merieux, International Association for Biologicals, International Society for Vaccines, International Vaccine Institute, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, The Netherlands Vaccine Institute and United States Department of Agriculture.

Founded in 1973, NFID is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the causes, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases.

Contact: Jennifer Corrigan

Phone: 732-382-8898

SOURCE National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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