The human body fights infections using a complex system of genes. Vaccines are just one area in which advances in health medicine seek to match or personalize medical care to the individuals genetic make-up. The possibility of matching a vaccine to a specific person’s human genome make-up is mind boggling. Scientists are researching how to replace one-size-for-all vaccines with personalized vaccines that are tailored for the genetic make-up of the individual.
Since the human genome project’s first phase was complete over a decade ago, biotech researchers have developed sequencing tools which allow them to pinpoint the genes and gene groupings that play a role in the individual human body’s response to vaccines. Although these vaccines have not yet come into existence the horizon can be seen where patients will have their human genome sequences saved on their health insurance cards and their doctor or pharmacist matches their prescription to their gene sequence.
Amazing headway that has been made in this area but there are lingering challenges for biotech researchers. It is complex and difficult to identify which genes respond to vaccines. The human genome structure has thousands of immune related genes and they interact in complicated and varied ways. Other factors such as environmental influences, stress, and hormones can also play a role in the body’s response.
Another reason not to expect a personally tailored flu shot any time soon, is that once health medicine researchers find the answers to the above complex issues, they still have to get the vaccine research approved by the FDA. The drugs will cost more to manufacture and be less profitable to pharmaceutical companies who provide billions in research to get drugs approved. This will likely be another hurdle the personalized drugs will need to overcome.
Despite these battles, biotech researchers continue to pursue their efforts. Currently, vaccines for influenza, hepatitis, HIV, and herpes, and others are being researched and will not doubt one day be personalized for each individual. It is just a matter of time before these advances become reality.