DNA vaccines have evolved greatly over the last 20 years since their invention, but have yet to become a competitive alternative to conventional protein or carbohydrate based human vaccines. Whilst safety concerns were an initial barrier, the Achilles heel of DNA vaccines remains their poor immunogenicity when compared to protein vaccines. A wide variety of strategies have been developed to optimize DNA vaccine immunogenicity, including codon optimization, genetic adjuvants, electroporation and sophisticated prime-boost regimens, with each of these methods having its advantages and limitations. Whilst each of these methods has contributed to incremental improvements in DNA vaccine efficacy, more is still needed if human DNA vaccines are to succeed commercially. This review foresees a final breakthrough in human DNA vaccines will come from application of the latest cutting-edge technologies, including “epigenetics” and “omics” approaches, alongside traditional techniques to improve immunogenicity such as adjuvants and electroporation, thereby overcoming the current limitations of DNA vaccines in humans.
- DNA vaccine