Ontology-based Precision Vaccinology for Deep Mechanism Understanding and Precision Vaccine Development

Curr Pharm Des. 2021;27(7):900-910. doi: 10.2174/1381612826666201125112131.


Vaccination is one of the most important innovations in human history. It has also become a hot research area in a new application - the development of new vaccines against non-infectious diseases such as cancers. However, effective and safe vaccines still do not exist for many diseases, and where vaccines exist, their protective immune mechanisms are often unclear. Although licensed vaccines are generally safe, various adverse events, and sometimes severe adverse events, still exist for a small population. Precision medicine tailors medical intervention to the personal characteristics of individual patients or sub-populations of individuals with similar immunity-related characteristics. Precision vaccinology is a new strategy that applies precision medicine to the development, administration, and post-administration analysis of vaccines. Several conditions contribute to make this the right time to embark on the development of precision vaccinology. First, the increased level of research in vaccinology has generated voluminous "big data" repositories of vaccinology data. Secondly, new technologies such as multi-omics and immunoinformatics bring new methods for investigating vaccines and immunology. Finally, the advent of AI and machine learning software now makes possible the marriage of Big Data to the development of new vaccines in ways not possible before. However, something is missing in this marriage, and that is a common language that facilitates the correlation, analysis, and reporting nomenclature for the field of vaccinology. Solving this bioinformatics problem is the domain of applied biomedical ontology. Ontology in the informatics field is human- and machine-interpretable representation of entities and the relations among entities in a specific domain. The Vaccine Ontology (VO) and Ontology of Vaccine Adverse Events (OVAE) have been developed to support the standard representation of vaccines, vaccine components, vaccinations, host responses, and vaccine adverse events. Many other biomedical ontologies have also been developed and can be applied in vaccine research. Here, we review the current status of precision vaccinology and how ontological development will enhance this field, and propose an ontology-based precision vaccinology strategy to support precision vaccine research and development.

Keywords: Vaccine; adverse event; ontology; ontology of adverse events; precision vaccine; precision vaccinology; vaccine ontology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology
  • Humans
  • Software
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines*
  • Vaccinology*


  • Vaccines