On January 12, 2023, a group of Erasmus+ Mundus Joint Masters Degree in Leading International Vaccinology Education (EMJMD+ LIVE) students organized the first ever Vaccinext: Powering Next Generation Vaccines symposium. The Vaccinext symposium was established as the concluding event of the Project Management Teaching Unit of the EMJMD+ LIVE program.
Dr. Flora Magnotti, the project supervisor, warmly welcomed the diverse attendees and speakers. More than 50 attendees from across the globe, coming from India, Lebanon, Pakistan, Nigeria, Uganda, the Philippines, among others joined the symposium onsite or online to gain insights about innovations in vaccinology as well as possible research journeys in the field from five (5) international PhD students and postdoctoral researchers.
Attendees met the first speaker, Mr. Emil Joseph Vergara, who gave an informative talk online about post-exposure immunization against multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Emil emphasized that targeting the right antigens, determining what constitutes a protective immune response against TB, and overcoming challenges in aerosolized vaccine delivery are innovative ways to address the major hurdles in TB vaccine development.
Ms. Leonie Mayer gave the second talk about the development of a viral vector vaccine platform against emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. Leonie presented the clinical development of the Modified Vaccinia Virus Ankara (MVA)-based viral vaccine platform as a way to rethink the vaccine decision making process during the early vaccine development.
The third talk by Vinnycius Pereira Almeida also discussed viral-vector vaccines but combined with T cell therapy as treatment against solid tumors. By investigating the mechanisms behind its efficacy, Vinny is confident that this novel combination therapy can potentially enhance anti-tumor immune responses in the future.
The fourth speaker, Sebastian Ols, PhD, elaborated on a novel vaccine design of self-assembling nanoparticles to elicit strong and diverse B cell immune responses. His findings showed that this designed multivalent antigen display system could skew antibody specificity and improve the magnitude of antibody response. Dr. Ols also stated that this is a milestone towards a rational vaccine design in inducing durable, broadly neutralizing, and highly potent antibodies against infectious diseases.
Dur-e-Nayab Waheed was the final speaker of the symposium that shared about the key factors affecting Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination in Lower- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was evident that routine immunization programs were hampered, vaccine hesitancy was on the rise, and emerging and re-emerging infections were on the way. Thus, Nayab advocates for a more holistic approach in tackling immunization campaigns in the near future.
After the five talks, the morning session concluded for the online attendees. Onsite attendees continued in the afternoon at the Salle de Conférence, La Doua Library of Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France. They were divided into groups, each supervised by a speaker, and each group was assigned with one word (e.g., parasite, antibody, etc.) and had to propose a project by answering the question, “What would you do if the group had 1 million dollars?” Sara Abdel Malak, the Scientific Outreach Manager of the event, said in a Linkedin post, “As we train to become leaders in the Vaccinology field, we learn the importance of knowledge sharing and communication.” This interactive workshop was an activity to stimulate participants beyond the confines of the classroom as they ideate possible opportunities to pursue as vaccinologists in the future. Finally, the closing activity of the symposium was a fun trivia game where the same groups compete against each other to correctly answer questions from the event’s speakers.
The Vaccinext symposium was organized by Dare Akinfolarin, Genevieve Butt, Sara Abdel Malak, Divya Sinha, and Justin Vincent Tan, who are 2nd year EMJMD+ LIVE students. The symposium was made possible with the following sponsors: Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, Erasmus+, EMJMD+ LIVE, and Global Health Press. To see pictures and videos of the symposium, follow us on Instagram.
By Justin Vincent Tan