Scientist looking through microscope in our vaccines R&D centre in Rockville, US

Welcome to the golden age of vaccine innovation

With vaccines widely available for many of the most common childhood illnesses, like measles and mumps, many people think that the golden age of vaccine development has passed. Here’s why we think they’re wrong.

With exciting advancements in scientific understanding, technical innovation and manufacturing, we have never been in a better position to tackle public health challenges affecting people of all ages, across the globe.

What's behind the science of vaccines

Watch Dr Emmanuel Hanon, Senior Vice President, Head of Vaccines R&D, GSK Vaccines, talk about the innovation behind vaccines.

It was more than 200 years ago that Edward Jenner became the first person to successfully develop a vaccine.[1] Since his milestone vaccine against smallpox, no medical achievement has done more to save lives and improve quality of life than the simple act of vaccination.[2] The science Jenner used in that first vaccine is still widely used today, but there is more to do. There are still diseases that have no vaccine, new technologies are now allowing us to explore vaccination as a way to treat existing conditions, as well as prevent against illness.

We have a large technology toolkit allowing us to expand the scope of vaccine research. Our scientists have accepted the challenge to think about what the vaccines of the future might look like, whether they’ll be administered as they are now, or whether we could program cells within the body to make the antibodies needed to protect against future infection by certain diseases. We also utilise the latest technology, like virtual reality headsets and 3D modelling, to help design new, and in some cases, improved vaccines. 

3D tech in the search for new vaccines

Matthew J. Bottomley is the Function Head for Vaccine Design and Characterization at our global vaccines R&D site in Rockville, US. Watch him share how we’re using some of the latest tech around to help us find new vaccines.

Adjuvant Systems, a technology GSK has been working on for more than 20 years, has made it possible to develop vaccines that target specific age groups, such as older people.  As we get older, so does our immune system, which means a vaccine may require the boosting effect of an adjuvant to help make some types of vaccine work more effectively.

What are adjuvants?

How can adjuvant systems be used to enhance the body’s immune response to vaccines? Watch Dr Arnaud Didierlaurent, Head of Adjuvant Platforms, GSK Vaccines, explore this topic.

Our ageing immune systems become less effective at protecting us from disease and increases the chances of infection, such as shingles and pneumonia. Even if you were vaccinated as a child, the protection from some vaccines can wear off with time, or the viruses or bacteria that the vaccines protect against change so your resistance is not as strong.

How can vaccines support the body’s immune system as we age?

Our bodies are less able to fight diseases as we age. Dr Thomas Breuer, Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer, GSK Vaccines, explains how we are trying to overcome this by finding new ways to recharge the body’s immune system using vaccines.

Getting vaccinated not only helps protect you but can also help to protect the people around you – a concept known as herd immunity. Herd immunity is particularly important for those at higher risk of infection, such as infants or people with weakened immune systems or a chronic health condition.

You’re never too old to get vaccinated

You’re never too old to get vaccinated. Francesca Ceddia, Head of Global Medical Affairs at GSK Vaccines, explains why.

Furthermore, vaccines can also help to tackle one of the greatest public health threats facing the global community - antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which some predict could see the return of previously treatable diseases and, unless we take action, could  kill as many as 10 million people a year by 2050, more than the current death toll from all types of cancer combined.[3] Being vaccinated can help prevent an individual from ever developing an infection which may require antibiotic treatment while also reducing the transmission of certain types of bacteria, including antibiotic resistant strains.

How can we beat the superbugs?

Watch Rino Rappuoli, Chief Scientist and Head of External Research & Development, GSK Vaccines, explain how we are developing new vaccines to help reduce antimicrobial resistance.

Vaccination can have a huge role to play in helping people to stay healthy across their lifespan. That’s why we are working to research and develop new vaccinations to help people to protect themselves from disease and live healthier lives.


[1] Riedel S. Edward Jenner and the history of smallpox and vaccination. Proceedings (Baylor University Medical Center). 2005;18(1):21-25.
[2] NHS Choices. How vaccination saves lives. Available at: Last accessed: September 2017.
[3] O'Neill, J. Tackling Drug-Resistant Infections Globally: Final Report and Recommendations. Available at: Last accessed: August 2017