Vaccination is one of the greatest triumphs of modern medicine, yet we remain largely ignorant of the mechanisms by which successful vaccines stimulate protective immunity. Two recent advances are beginning to illuminate such mechanisms: realization of the pivotal role of the innate immune system in sensing microbes and stimulating adaptive immunity, and advances in systems biology. Recent studies have used systems biology approaches to obtain a global picture of the immune responses to vaccination in humans. This has enabled the identification of early innate signatures that predict the immunogenicity of vaccines, and identification of potentially novel mechanisms of immune regulation. Here, we review these advances and critically examine the potential opportunities and challenges posed by systems biology in vaccine development.
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