Md. is developing the next generation of life-saving vaccines

Flu season is upon us and the influenza vaccination is the most effective way to protect you and your family from the virus and related complications.

Each year, millions of people are sickened by the flu, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands die. Receiving the vaccine is the first and most important step to protect yourself. In fact, the shot can reduce children’s risk of flu-related hospitalizations by 75 percent and by 57 percent for adults over 50. When getting your vaccination, it is a perfect opportunity to talk with your health care provider to make sure you and your family are up-to-date on all vaccinations.

Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death, and they remain the best defense against the flu and several serious diseases like measles and diphtheria. Modern medical advancements and research have led to the development of vaccinations that protect against 26 diseases, 14 of which protect children before the age of two. Routine immunizations prevent 2 million to 3 million deaths annually; among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes.

The numbers don’t lie; vaccines work. Adherence to the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended immunization schedule is imperative to keep our society healthy and safe. When immunization rates are high, the whole community is better protected.

As a professional working in the vaccine field, it is my highest priority to communicate the importance of vaccinations and to advocate for continued vaccine research. Here in Maryland, dozens of vaccine companies are working to advance immunization development. In fact, Maryland is home to 20 percent of the top influencers worldwide in vaccine development. Many small biotechnology companies, like mine, Immunomic Therapeutics, are researching and developing immunotherapy options and “next generation” vaccines to tackle today’s most pressing public health crises, such as cancers and infectious diseases. Moreover, vaccine divisions of larger pharmaceutical companies have decided to put their roots down in Maryland. Last December, GlaxoSmithKline opened its newest global vaccine research and development center in Rockville, and 450 researchers are now pursuing their investigational studies there.

We are proud to call Maryland home and to be part of the robust vaccine research community. We have neighbors tackling improved vaccinations to fight disease and protect against emerging viruses, bacteria and pathogens. For our part, Immunomic is focused on developing a next generation DNA vaccine to treat cancer, starting with glioblastoma.

At Immunomic, we are pioneering the study of the LAMP-based nucleic acid immunotherapy platforms. The LAMP-Vax platform is thought to work by encoding the Lysosomal Associated Membrane Protein (LAMP), an endogenous protein in humans, to utilize the body’s natural biochemistry to develop a broad immune response. Such investigational technologies have the potential to alter how we use immunotherapy for cancer, allergies and animal health.

While American scientists continue to work on developing the next generation of vaccinations, it’s imperative that our leaders and communities encourage people to take vaccines and support policies that encourage innovation. Visit your primary care physician now to get this year’s flu vaccine and talk with your physician to make sure you and your family are up-to-date with all vaccines. Taking these steps results in a healthier future for all Marylanders.

Athanasia Anagnostou (aanagnostou@immunomix.com) is senior director at Immunomic Therapeutics, which has partnered with We Work for Health — Maryland.

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