Vaccine manufacturing 1

Published on May 31, 2015 Reviewed on June 12, 2023   34 min

Other Talks in the Series: Vaccines

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Hello, today I'm going to talk about vaccine manufacturing. My name is Donald Gerson and I have a long history in vaccine manufacturing. I received a PhD in biophysics from McGill University a long time ago. I've spent approximately the last 30 years making most of the commercial vaccines that are available today and was involved in making the very first of all three major conjugate vaccines that are currently available worldwide. So today we're going to talk about how you make vaccines, and why to make vaccines, and what's involved. I'm going to focus on the kinds of things that you can't so easily read in a book. So some of the, I hope, wisdom behind this, rather than just some technical details that you could read elsewhere.
So first of all, there are an awful lot of benefits to vaccines, but they came initially as scientific discovery. So in order to benefit humanity from a scientific discovery, you have to convert that discovery into widely used products or services. And that's just as true for vaccines as it is for cellular phones, or any other electronic device, or information technology process. There's a huge effort required to go from the initial scientific discovery to something that's useful and makes a difference to people's lives. Now, in the particular issue of making vaccines, there are only several hundred serious pathogens for humans. Each one has a number of antigens which are usually protein molecules, but not always, that generate an immune response. A very small number of those antigens, in the pathogens, provide protective immunity. And so part of the scientific discovery is to find which ones are protective and how to administer them, so that a person generates a lifelong protective response. And in reality, in spite of there being hundreds of pathogens, really only a handful, 20 nominally, have been converted into widely used vaccines. And there's both scientific problems and manufacturing problems that have limited this conversion of scientific knowledge into useful products. So today, here, we're going to talk about what's involved in making widely used vaccines, starting with the scientific discovery.