Structural and Computational Biology in the Design of Immunogenic Vaccine Antigens.

Vaccination is historically one of the most important medical interventions for the prevention of infectious disease. Previously, vaccines were typically made of rather crude mixtures of inactivated or attenuated causative agents. However, over the last 10-20 years, several important technological and computational advances have enabled major progress in the discovery and design of potently immunogenic recombinant protein vaccine antigens. Here we discuss three key breakthrough approaches that have potentiated structural and computational vaccine design. Firstly, genomic sciences gave birth to the field of reverse vaccinology, which has enabled the rapid computational identification of potential vaccine antigens. Secondly, major advances in structural biology, experimental epitope mapping, and computational epitope prediction have yielded molecular insights into the immunogenic determinants defining protective antigens, enabling their rational optimization. Thirdly, and most recently, computational approaches have been used to convert this wealth of structural and immunological information into the design of improved vaccine antigens. This review aims to illustrate the growing power of combining sequencing, structural and computational approaches, and we discuss how this may drive the design of novel immunogens suitable for future vaccines urgently needed to increase the global prevention of infectious disease.

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