New Vaccine Founded on Research From Children's Hospital at Strong
Spin-offs of breakthrough vaccine "reverberate to this day and beyond"
February 17, 2000
The Food and Drug Administration today approved Prevenar, the first conjugate vaccine to successfully prevent certain types of pneumococcal meningitis, pneumonia, and ear infections in infants and children. The discovery, which has the potential to save millions of lives and billions of dollars worldwide, has undeniable ties to Rochester.
Rochester-based Wyeth Lederle Vaccines manufactures Prevenar. In addition, the new vaccine is based in large part on groundbreaking research that was performed in the 1980s at Children's Hospital at Strong. That contribution to science cannot be underestimated. The National Institutes of Health put it this way: "The spin-offs of this breakthrough vaccine reverberate to this day and beyond."
"We can all take pride that both the scientific discovery that led to this vaccine, as well as the company that manufactures it, are both located here in Rochester," said Richard Insel, M.D., an immunologist at Children's Hospital at Strong. "It's a wonderful marriage that will not only benefit our community, but communities around the world."
Prevenar is the second major FDA-approved vaccine to be developed based on this scientific breakthrough. In the 1980s, researchers here developed a vaccine for the bacterium Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), which virtually wiped out the disease that was a leading cause of meningitis in preschoolers.
The Hib vaccine, developed by Porter Anderson, Ph.D, David H. Smith, M.D., and Insel, is now administered to all infants in the U.S. and in many other countries. This team of researchers cleverly linked a bacterial capsular polysaccharide to a protein carrier, forming a conjugate vaccine. They then used this concept to develop a vaccine for the bacteria and showed it was capable of generating protective antibodies in infants.
"It was realized immediately that vaccines could be developed to prevent pneumoccoal bacterial infections in infants based on the same conjugate-vaccine technology," Insel said.
Prevenar has vast potential since more than 1 million children die worldwide each year as a result of pneumococcal disease. In addition, the disease, when it affects children, costs the U.S. health care system an estimated $1.5 billion annually.
In the future, even more vaccines could be created using the technology developed at Children's Hospital at Strong of the University of Rochester. England has already approved a vaccine for meningococcus, and Insel thinks some form of that vaccine will eventually be licensed in the U.S.