The science of adjuvants

Expert Rev Vaccines. 2007 Oct;6(5):673-84. doi: 10.1586/14760584.6.5.673.


Adjuvants are substances that boost the immunogenicity of vaccines. However, most successful vaccines have been derived empirically and are capable of inducing robust T- and B-cell immunity without any adjuvant additives. Emerging evidence suggests that such live vaccines induce innate immune activation via a range of stimuli, including ligands specific for Toll-like receptors, which, in effect, serve as their own adjuvants. In contrast to these live vaccines, subunit vaccines need to be supplemented with adjuvants to boost their immunogenicity. However, there is a paucity of licensed adjuvants for clinical use and, thus, there is a critical need to develop safe and effective adjuvants. In this context, recent advances in innate immunity are beginning to offer new insights into how empiric vaccines and adjuvants mediate their efficacy. In this article, we review the latest progress and emerging concepts in adjuvant development, which includes novel findings in innate immune biology and their impact on vaccinology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic* / administration & dosage
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic* / standards
  • Adjuvants, Pharmaceutic* / administration & dosage
  • Adjuvants, Pharmaceutic* / standards
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Vaccination / methods*
  • Vaccination / standards
  • Vaccination / trends*
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / administration & dosage
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / immunology
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / standards


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Adjuvants, Pharmaceutic
  • Vaccines, Attenuated