Rational approaches will be required to develop universal vaccines for viral pathogens such as human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis C virus, and influenza, for which empirical approaches have failed. The main objective of a rational vaccine strategy is to design novel immunogens that are capable of inducing long-term protective immunity. In practice, this requires structure-based engineering of the target neutralizing epitopes and a quantitative readout of vaccine-induced immune responses. Therefore, computational tools that can facilitate these two areas have played increasingly important roles in rational vaccine design in recent years. Here we review the computational techniques developed for protein structure prediction and antibody repertoire analysis, and demonstrate how they can be applied to the design and evaluation of epitope vaccines.
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