Urmila Kulkarni- Kale, Vaishali Waman, Snehal Raskar, Swati Mehta and Smita Saxena
Emerging and re-emerging viral infections are a threat to human health and a cause of global concern. Several viral vaccines have been successfully developed using conventional methods. However, there are many viruses for which vaccines need to be developed on priority basis. Furthermore, the challenges viz. varying efficacy of existing vaccines also need to be addressed as viruses are known to evolve at a higher rate as compared to other species.
Under this scenario, availability of whole genome sequences of pathogens has brought a paradigm shift and reversed the process of vaccine development, which is termed as reverse vaccinology approach. The advents of next generation sequencing technologies coupled with pan-genomic approaches, offer unprecedented opportunities for data driven, knowledge-based approaches for rational design of viral vaccines. Reverse vaccinology approach begins with analysis of genomic data and culminates into identification and prioritization of a few tractable vaccine candidates. The genomic sequence of a viral pathogen is processed through various sequence and structure-based analyses to identify an ensemble of epitopes, which not only reduces time required for discovery but also helps in eliminating quite a few in vitro screening steps. The field leverages on tools & techniques of bioinformatics, immunoinformatics and comparative genomics, which are not only independent domains of research, but also offer a distinct advantage in designing vaccines. A detailed account of the state of art resources and methods in each of these areas are reviewed and presented to substantiate and highlight their roles in designing viral vaccines in the post genomics era.