The Gairdner Foundation announced the 2017 Canada Gairdner Award laureates, recognizing some of the most significant medical discoveries from around the world.
Among the selections from various fields for significant discoveries or contributions to biomedical science, our co-founder and deputy chairman Dr. Rino Rappuoli, is awarded “For pioneering the genomic approach, known as reverse vaccinology, used to develop a vaccine against meningococcus B which has saved many lives worldwide”
Rino Rappuoli is a pioneer in the world of vaccines and has introduced several novel scientific concepts. First, he introduced the concept that bacterial toxins can be detoxified by manipulation of their genes (genetic detoxification, 1987). Next, the concept that microbes are better studied in the context of the cells they interact with (cellular microbiology, 1996), and then the use of genomes to develop new vaccines (reverse vaccinology, 2000), which has revolutionized vaccine development. For more than three centuries, scientists have tried isolating pathogens, growing them in the lab, then exposing people to a weakened form to generate antibodies and immunity. But this approach is hit-and-miss. Instead, with the reverse vaccinology approach, the entire genomic sequence of a pathogen is screened using bioinformatics tools to identify proteins that are good vaccine targets. This approach led to the creation of the first vaccine for meningococcal B disease, a bacterial infection that tends to spread in young people, and which has a mortality rate of about 25 per cent. Rino Rappuoli also worked on several molecules which became part of licensed vaccines. He characterized a molecule, CRM197, that today is the most widely used carrier for vaccines against Haemophilus influenzae, meningococcus and pneumococcus. Later he developed a vaccine against pertussis containing genetically detoxified pertussis toxin and the first conjugate vaccine against meningococcus C that eliminated the disease in the United Kingdom in 2000.
Rino Rappuoli stated: “The use of genomic, reverse vaccinology and new technologies are going to make a big revolution in the field of the vaccines. The vaccines of the future will be safer, prevent more diseases and in some cases, will cure diseases.”
The Gairdner Foundation was established with a 1957 gift from James Gairdner, who wanted to celebrate international excellence in science. Since 1959, more than 360 winners from 30 countries have been recognized for their innovative work.