Vaccine adjuvant systems: enhancing the efficacy of sub-unit protein antigens

Yvonne Perrie, Afzal R. Mohammed, Daniel J. Kirby, Sarah E. McNeil, Vincent W. Bramwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vaccination remains a key tool in the protection and eradication of diseases. However, the development of new safe and effective vaccines is not easy. Various live organism based vaccines currently licensed, exhibit high efficacy; however, this benefit is associated with risk, due to the adverse reactions found with these vaccines. Therefore, in the development of vaccines, the associated risk-benefit issues need to be addressed. Sub-unit proteins offer a much safer alternative; however, their efficacy is low. The use of adjuvanted systems have proven to enhance the immunogenicity of these sub-unit vaccines through protection (i.e. preventing degradation of the antigen in vivo) and enhanced targeting of these antigens to professional antigen-presenting cells. Understanding of the immunological implications of the related disease will enable validation for the design and development of potential adjuvant systems. Novel adjuvant research involves the combination of both pharmaceutical analysis accompanied by detailed immunological investigations, whereby, pharmaceutically designed adjuvants are driven by an increased understanding of mechanisms of adjuvant activity, largely facilitated by description of highly specific innate immune recognition of components usually associated with the presence of invading bacteria or virus. The majority of pharmaceutical based adjuvants currently being investigated are particulate based delivery systems, such as liposome formulations. As an adjuvant, liposomes have been shown to enhance immunity against the associated disease particularly when a cationic lipid is used within the formulation. In addition, the inclusion of components such as immunomodulators, further enhance immunity. Within this review, the use and application of effective adjuvants is investigated, with particular emphasis on liposomal-based systems. The mechanisms of adjuvant activity, analysis of complex immunological characteristics and formulation and delivery of these vaccines are considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-280
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmaceutics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2008


  • sub-unit antigens
  • vaccines
  • adjuvant
  • liposomes
  • niosomes
  • toll-like receptor


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