An opportunity exists today for cross-cutting research utilizing advances in materials science, immunology, microbial pathogenesis, and computational analysis to effectively design the next generation of adjuvants and vaccines. This study integrates these advances into a bottom-up approach for the molecular design of nanoadjuvants capable of mimicking the immune response induced by a natural infection but without the toxic side effects. Biodegradable amphiphilic polyanhydrides possess the unique ability to mimic pathogens and pathogen associated molecular patterns with respect to persisting within and activating immune cells, respectively. The molecular properties responsible for the pathogen-mimicking abilities of these materials have been identified. The value of using polyanhydride nanovaccines was demonstrated by the induction of long-lived protection against a lethal challenge of Yersinia pestis following a single administration ten months earlier. This approach has the tantalizing potential to catalyze the development of next generation vaccines against diseases caused by emerging and re-emerging pathogens.
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