Western nations are already investing in the third generation of vaccines to respond to possible bio-weapons

By: | Updated: June 22, 2018 4:12 AM

Given the real dangers of unconventional warfare—sample the chemical attacks in Syria and Russia’s killing exiles in foreign jurisdictions using radioactive toxins—there has been some focus from countries on developing responses to biological weapons/ bioterrorism.

Western nations are already investing in the third generation of vaccines to respond to possible bio-weapons

Given the real dangers of unconventional warfare—sample the chemical attacks in Syria and Russia’s killing exiles in foreign jurisdictions using radioactive toxins—there has been some focus from countries on developing responses to biological weapons/ bioterrorism. For instance, even though smallpox was eradicated in 1979, if Variola (the smallpox virus) was engineered to be resistant to existing vaccines in a lab somewhere and released on troops of a country or on the general population, the disaster will be of incalculable proportions. Given how generating a new vaccine response will be time-consuming, a potential crisis could well bring a nation to its knees. The world, thus, is increasing its reliance on ‘DNA’ vaccines—these use viral-specific RNA/DNA sequences, usually coding for surface proteins on the virus’s shell, that trigger an immune response in humans. A subject inoculated with the vaccine will develop immunity to the virus within weeks. Given the ease of developing DNA vaccines (DNA is a misnomer here because the genetic material used could also be RNA), an effective response is possible if the right delivery systems are developed.

To that end, the US Department of defense has funded the Global Research Centre of GE, the American conglomerate, for “amplification” of viral DNA, that is rapidly increasing the amount of the genetic material in the sample for more efficient testing. GE scientist John Nelson had developed a DNA amplification technique in the 1990s which is now key to mounting an effective DNA vaccine shield. DNA vaccines, the third generation in vaccine evolution, need not only be thought of as a response to bio-terrorism. Perhaps, with increasing efficiency in delivery and greater efficacy, these could some day become a part of the regular vaccine programme.

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