The delicate balance in genetically engineering live vaccines

James E. Galen, Roy Curtiss

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Contemporary vaccine development relies less on empirical methods of vaccine construction, and now employs a powerful array of precise engineering strategies to construct immunogenic live vaccines. In this review, we will survey various engineering techniques used to create attenuated vaccines, with an emphasis on recent advances and insights. We will further explore the adaptation of attenuated strains to create multivalent vaccine platforms for immunization against multiple unrelated pathogens. These carrier vaccines are engineered to deliver sufficient levels of protective antigens to appropriate lymphoid inductive sites to elicit both carrier-specific and foreign antigen-specific immunity. Although many of these technologies were originally developed for use in Salmonella vaccines, application of the essential logic of these approaches will be extended to development of other enteric vaccines where possible. A central theme driving our discussion will stress that the ultimate success of an engineered vaccine rests on achieving the proper balance between attenuation and immunogenicity. Achieving this balance will avoid over-activation of inflammatory responses, which results in unacceptable reactogenicity, but will retain sufficient metabolic fitness to enable the live vaccine to reach deep tissue inductive sites and trigger protective immunity. The breadth of examples presented herein will clearly demonstrate that genetic engineering offers the potential for rapidly propelling vaccine development forward into novel applications and therapies which will significantly expand the role of vaccines in public health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4376-4385
Number of pages10
Issue number35
StatePublished - Jul 31 2014


  • Carrier
  • Foreign antigen
  • Metabolic burden
  • Over-attenuation
  • Salmonella
  • Vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • veterinary(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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