In the U.S., the recommended immunization series prevents approximately 33,000 deaths each year. Advancements in biotechnology have made it possible to produce vaccines that cannot transmit a virus or bacterium. This method has helped create more than 20 new vaccines against infectious agents, improved existing vaccines, and increased the amount of vaccine that can be produced.
Protecting the Most Vulnerable
Rotavirus is one of the most devastating childhood diseases, particularly in developing nations. Biotech scientists developed the rotavirus vaccines, Rotarix® and RotaTeq®. In 2005, RotaTeq reduced the number of lost workdays from rotavirus in the U.S. by nearly 87 percent and in 2009, deaths due to rotavirus in Mexico dropped by more than 65 percent. These proven successes lead experts to estimate that their widespread use in developing countries has the potential to prevent approximately two million deaths over the next decade. Biotech scientists also discovered the pneumococcal meningitis vaccine. This breakthrough has significantly reduced infection rates, particularly among the most vulnerable populations: children under two and adults 65 and older.
Cancer: Moving from Treatment to Prevention
Biotechnology is fueling the development of new vaccines for a variety of cancers. Biotech scientists have created vaccines for some of the world’s most common cancers, including the cervical vaccines Gardasil® (Merck) and Cervarix® (GlaxoSmithKline); and Stimuvax® (Merck and Oncothyreon), a vaccine in Phase III trials that attacks cancer cells common to lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer.