The immunization field is expanding in multiple directions, with new technology, different strategies for new patient and population groups, and new target diseases. Gaps in our understanding of basic biological and immunological mechanisms are rapidly emerging, stopping us from developing vaccines for emerging infectious diseases, cancer or from creating a “universal” influenza vaccine.
At the same time, the public is increasingly distrustful of vaccines. Vaccine hesitancy is spreading across the globe even as the accessibility and distribution of new vaccines have expanded. Today, vaccines save two to three million lives each year, but millions more could be saved.
To fully harness the power of vaccine science, we need a broad base of collaborators that can tackle knowledge gaps from the molecular level all the way up to societal and health-system levels.
The University of Toronto has a proud history of involvement in the development of vaccines, starting with the legacy of Dr. John G. Fitzgerald who led the world in the development of diphtheria and tetanus anti-toxins. And Dr. Leone Farrell developed the “Toronto method” for scaling-up polio virus production to enable large scale manufacture of vaccine for polio vaccine campaigns in the US and Canada. Today, the university has one of the largest health sciences presence in the world, with links to more than 30 hospitals, access to data from Ontario patients and one of the most diverse patient populations in the world. The university also benefits from having some of the strongest immunization researchers in Canada among its faculty. The Centre will provide a focus for these researchers and a hub for their students, in line with our objective to champion access to education on vaccine-preventable disease and immunization science.