Research on meningitis vaccines rated top world-wide

18 October 2010

© Institute for Animal Health UK

Oxford’s research on meningitis vaccines has been rated top world-wide by, the online resource for tracking trends and performance in global research.

Professors Andrew Pollard and Martin Maiden, two James Martin Senior Fellows affiliated with the School’s new Institute for Vaccine Design, are singled out for their highly cited research. ScienceWatch Special Topic examined the literature on meningitis over the past decade and over the past two years in order to observe trends and anomalies across different citation categories. Citations of academic papers are an internationally recognised measure of research excellence and achievement, and provide a strong indicator of research impacts.

Meningitis is one of the five target diseases being studied at the Institute for Vaccine Design (iVD). It is a condition, generally bacterial or viral in origin, in which the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord become infected. Although meningitis is a global health problem, many developing countries experience repeated and regular meningitis epidemics. iVD’s approach is to bring together a broad range of disciplines that underpin modern vaccinology, from pathogen genomics and structural biology, through molecular biology and cellular immunology, to clinical development and health economics, in order to provide a range of synergistic expertise unparalleled elsewhere in academia.

Speaking about the human impact of meningococcal disease, Maiden said, “Before the MenC vaccine was introduced as part of the UK’s national childhood vaccination programme, it was a major cause of death in young people in the UK. Today in sub-Saharan Africa it remains a major problem; about once a decade it reaches epidemic proportions, causing tens of thousands of deaths. Meningococcal septicemia is extremely dangerous: it develops rapidly, and is therefore a terrifying disease for parents because a healthy child can deteriorate to a life-threatening condition within hours.”

Co-Director of iVD, Professor Susan Lea commented, “We’re clearly delighted to see that Oxford’s research on meningitis is so widely cited. These research papers make a major contribution to advancing the design and development of effective vaccines – something that can really only be done when different perspectives are sought and new cross-disciplinary collaborations fostered.”