Tour of the world’s largest vaccine factory

Vaccines are one of the most important achievements in the history of medicine, along with antibiotics, water purification and sewage treatment. These advances, coupled with improvements in prevention, nutrition and new treatments, have led to life expectancy exceeding 80 years in Spain and surrounding countries. Additionally, vaccines are in the headlines again this week, with the Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their work on the SARS-CoV that causes Covid-19. 2 Vaccine Parents.

The small town of Wavre is located in the center of Europe, 20 kilometers south of Brussels The world’s largest vaccine factory. It belongs to the British laboratory GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and covers an area of ​​70 hectares, occupied by different pavilions, similar to those at trade fairs. The activity never stops, 6,000 scientists and technicians work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to research and produce 20 different vaccines and ship them to 160 countries around the world.

Immunization safety is a critical aspect that must be followed by all workers and visitors entering any manufacturing and production line in order to avoid any type of external contamination Complex protocols, changing their clothing into multiple layers of sterile fabric, hats, glasses and beard covers. Since shoes are another possible source of bacteria, they should be replaced with sanitized shoes. This process lasts half an hour and is completely agreed upon according to the color and layer of the garment, depending on the task performed.

«Guarantee the safety of production lines, Inspections are constant: 20 to 25 times a yearIt is conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the World Health Organization (WHO), Belgian health authorities and the internal audit agency responsible for ensuring vaccine quality. After each batch of vaccines is ready, it will undergo more than 100 quality checks,” he detailed. Ann DeConinckthe main operating director of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Belgium.

Phil Domitzer Since December 2021, he has served as GSK’s Senior Vice President and Head of Vaccine Research and Development. Previously, he worked on viral and RNA vaccines at Pfizer, where he led the coronavirus vaccine development program. «I have been working in this field since 1986, when I started at Stanford University School of Medicine. “Then I focused on the rotavirus vaccine,” he recalls.

biotechnology push

In his view, the changes over the past forty years are very meaningful. “A revolution in life sciences driven by data and new technologies.” Biotechnology has also facilitated the development of new technology platforms that can develop appropriate vaccines for each pathogen. Now, GSK is researching 21 novel immunization methods using different approaches, such as messenger RNA, antigen design, MAPS multi-antigen presentation systems, antigen membranes or universal modules for adjuvants. “It’s one of the most fascinating areas of research right now,” he added.

«Adjuvants are substances that enhance and modulate the immune response to vaccine antigens. Antigens, by themselves, are molecular structures that sit on the surface of a virus and are recognized by the immune system. Adjuvanted vaccines represent a great technological advance that enables enhanced immune responses with high, broader and long-lasting protection. This technology is transforming vaccines,” Domizer described.

He reiterated that the changes with the vaccine were “very clear.” For example, until a few years ago, a virus was harvested, multiplied (using eggs), inactivated, and the viral antigen purified. Today, instead of eggs, recombinant synthesis techniques are used to find high-resolution molecular structures.

«Another example of these advances is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Vaccine“We performed atomic-level resolution on the key antigen F protein to understand it from a molecular perspective,” he detailed.

Technology also enables development New vaccines against infectious diseases such as gonorrhea, Clostridium difficile, or herpes simplex virus are still being developed and non-communicable diseases, such as certain types of cancer and some rare immune system disorders.

incorporate Analysis of billions of data (big data) and artificial intelligence can also help in the development and improvement of new vaccines. As Domitzer points out, “Just as we now know with great accuracy how the weather will change, “We will be able to learn more in advance about how mutating viruses like influenza change.”which will allow us to precisely select next year’s dominant strain and design a more effective vaccine against it.

From their perspective, data mining techniques will also become the basis for basic research. “When a vaccine is designed, thousands of pages of tables with graphics and text are written, and it is necessary for scientists to interpret them. I believe that artificial intelligence will be able to complete some of these daily tasks, processing large amounts of information and making it easy to manage. way to provide information,” he predicted.

Vaccines could improve aging

Another aspect that is changing the landscape of vaccines is the How the immune system changes throughout life: It is immature when we are born and develops throughout childhood and throughout life. “But as we age, our immune systems also age,” concludes Yan Sergerie, Vice President of GSK’s Global Healthcare Portfolio.

For decades, vaccines have been used to stimulate and strengthen children’s immune systems and prevent many diseases.Now, as Sergey explains, “We have learned that adult immunization is very importantBecause vaccines can not only prevent infectious diseases, but also improve the quality of life of the elderly, promote healthy aging, help avoid secondary complications, and reduce the burden on the health system. Therefore, to reduce the risk of death, vaccination against pneumococcal, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, as well as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus is recommended. And, to improve quality of life, vaccinations against whooping cough and shingles are recommended.

“We are also investigating how Reducing response to vaccination in older adults, new strategies neededsuch as new vaccine formulations with higher antigen content, formulations containing adjuvants, and alternative routes of administration such as intradermal injection,” Sergerie concluded.

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