Humanity has taken on infectious agents, such as the virus that causes smallpox, and won. But cheer quietly. Smallpox eradication took 200 years, and it's just one of the many diseases out there.
But hey, researchers are nothing if not persistent, right?
That's true for the researchers in Mayo Clinic's Vector and Vaccine Engineering Laboratory. They are taking on some of humanity's biggest medical problems. Lab Director Michael Barry, Ph.D., has worked for almost 30 years on gene and virus therapies, but also on developing new vaccines against infectious diseases and for cancer.
Even though vaccines are generally associated with infectious diseases, the definition is broader. A vaccine is any agent that causes the immune system to remember a specific disease-causing entity, thereby preventing future infections. So, a vaccine for cancer might contain a protein specific to the cancer cells; or a protein linked to a bacterial infection with Clostridium difficile; or of course, a protein from a virus. And because the protein is just a small piece of the target organism, the vaccine can't cause that disease, but it's enough to ring alarm bells in the immune system.
But how to get those proteins into the body safely?
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