Life-saving vaccinations

  • University of Bristol

  • Vaccinations against Pneumococcal infection

  • 2006-2009

The research

Prof Adam FinnPneumococcal infection is the leading cause of pneumonia and bacterial meningitis, killing about one million young children worldwide each year. The vaccines currently being developed will combat more strains of pneumonia than those currently available, and will be cheaper to produce.

This is particularly important for developing countries, where pneumonia is a leading cause of child death. As well as saving lives, the new vaccines being developed could also prevent thousands of children being admitted to hospital each year.


The team led by Professor Adam Finn studied immune (‘white blood’) cells from the adenoids of children having their tonsils and adenoids out at Bristol Children’s Hospital, observing the immune responses made in the nose tissues, where the pneumococcus is found. The study specifically measured response to different vaccine antigens, which are the substances added to a vaccine to trigger the immune response.

As a result of Sparks funded study, Professor Finn secured a $1M US grant from PATH, a  Seattle-based charity funded by the Gates Foundation which undertakes vaccine developmental programmes for poor countries. Professor Finn went on to receive further follow up funding from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The team is now working on eight novel vaccine candidates against pneumonia. One of these vaccines has already completed phase 1 trials in adults and phase 2 trials in children are expected to start soon. This could have a huge impact on children’s health around the globe. If these vaccines are successful, Professor Finn and his team will move on to creating vaccines for other causes of infection because infection is still the main killer of children around the world.

Professor Adam Finn at the University of Bristol said: “In funding this work, Sparks showed great foresight. The Sparks project grant provided a vital stepping stone in the development of our research and, more importantly, in efforts to prevent pneumonia deaths in children worldwide”.

Sparks continues to fund vital research into children’s medical conditions. Find out how to get involved and help support more pioneering research projects.