Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Publications: Faculty Books

Introduction to Geophysical Fluid Dynamics book cover Introduction to Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (Second Edition) by Professor Benoit Cushman-Roisin and Jean-Marie Beckers (Academic Press 2011). The greenhouse effect, global warming, and El Niño are some of the phenomena covered in this introduction to the principles governing atmospheric and oceanic flows and numerical methods for computer simulations. Aimed at students and scientists, the book won the 2010 Wernaers Prize from the National Fund for Scientific Research of Belgium.

Long Shot: Vaccines for National Defense book cover Long Shot: Vaccines for National Defense by Kendall Hoyt (Harvard University Press 2012). Troubled that the rate of vaccination innovation has been falling despite the rise of biotechnology, Hoyt, a Thayer lecturer and Dartmouth Medical School professor, argues that “as man-made biological threats proliferate and new diseases continue to emerge naturally, we urgently need to understand the conditions that foster timely innovation.” Her book examines the history of—and today’s obstacles to—vaccine development.

Q&A

We asked Thayer lecturer Kendall Hoyt, author of Long Shot: Vaccines for National Defense:

What do vaccines have to do with national defense?
Since disease can impair the nation’s ability to maintain order, defend itself, and project power, the ability to develop new vaccines quickly is essential to national security and public health. Historically, the U.S. has excelled at responding to national health emergencies. World War II-era programs developed 10 new or improved vaccines, often in time to meet the specific objectives of a military mission. In fact, the U.S. military made significant contributions to more than half of the vaccines developed in the 20th century.

What biodefense vaccines are most needed today, and how close are we to having them?
A next-generation anthrax vaccine has been a top priority since the first Gulf War. The current anthrax vaccine requires five shots over an 18-month period plus annual boosters, and it is not approved for children. Obviously, this vaccine is not ideal for civilian emergency use. A new recombinant protective antigen anthrax vaccine is technologically feasible and politically supported. However, 20 years and a billion dollars later, we still do not have it.

Aren’t biotechnological advances accelerating the pace of vaccine development?
Biotechnology has made important contributions—such as engineering antigens apart from the original pathogen, which improves the safety of vaccines—and will continue to enhance our ability to detect, design, and manufacture vaccines with greater precision.

However, various factors, including the rise of specialization and outsourcing, are undercutting the integrated mission-driven collaborative research methods used to develop many vaccines in the past, including influenza, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal meningitis, and hepatitis B. The emergence of intellectual property thickets, stricter regulations, and larger clinical trails has driven up the cost and complexity of research. These obstacles are even steeper for the biodefense industry, which relies on government contracts. Large experienced firms prefer to develop drugs with large commercial markets. Smaller firms willing to take on biodefense contracts have to outsource to two or three other companies to amass the full range of skills and resources required to license a new vaccine. Integrated R&D is hard to achieve in this manner, and important information and techniques are often lost in translation. As a result, we see more contract renegotiations, longer development times, higher costs, and higher failure rates. In the case of the failed recombinant protective antigen anthrax vaccine contract, lobbyists played a large role as well, derailing a viable candidate that threatened the makers of the current anthrax vaccine.

How can the nation prepare itself most effectively against biothreats?
Since we cannot predict all future biothreats, we should invest in research tools, methods, and technologies for prompt response and treatment, including rapid detection and diagnostics to speed identification of novel pathogens and diseases, better disease models and biomarkers, rapid expression systems for injectable proteins, DNA vaccine scaffolds, and adjuvants to induce immunity more quickly and/or improve the immunogenicity of DNA vaccines. Thermostable formulations and needle-less delivery systems will also facilitate efforts to distribute and administer medical countermeasures in an emergency.

Categories: The Great Hall, Publications

Tags: complex systems, engineering in medicine, faculty, public policy, research

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