Since its introduction, vaccinology has been very effective in preventing infectious diseases. However, in several cases, the conventional approach to identify protective antigens, based on biochemical, immunological and microbiological methods, has failed to deliver successful vaccine candidates against major bacterial pathogens. The recent development of powerful biotechnological tools applied to genome-based approaches has revolutionized vaccine development, biological research and clinical diagnostics. The availability of a genome provides an inclusive virtual catalogue of all the potential antigens from which it is possible to select the molecules that are likely to be more effective. Here, we describe the use of "reverse vaccinology", which has been successful in the identification of potential vaccines candidates against Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B and review the use of functional genomics approaches as DNA microarrays, proteomics and comparative genome analysis for the identification of virulence factors and novel vaccine candidates. In addition, we describe the potential of these powerful technologies in understanding the pathogenesis of various bacteria.