Leading minds were recently brought together from the biopharmaceutical industry to research organizations continuing the dialogue series around The New Era of Medicine. The latest event, which took place in New York, focused on the importance of genomics, and the ability it has given the industry to create treatments for some of the world’s most widespread diseases and epidemics.

Ripley Ballou, Vice President at GlaxoSmithKline and Head of GlaxoSmithKline Global Vaccines, spoke about his outlook and partnerships as it relates to vaccine development, Ballou pointed to the Ebola vaccine as a prime example of how critical collaboration is. “One of the things that has been very clear from our experience with Ebola and Zika is that we need to be able to respond very quickly. What keeps me up at night in terms of future threats is the one that we don’t know about. And it’s out there somewhere as evolution moves these viruses—they’re usually viruses—along. That means we need genomics technologies to sequence a virus very quickly. Genomics technologies have allowed us to design rapid response platform technologies: those could be our best bet for the rapid production and scale up of a new vaccine,” said Ballou.

And for how the genomics play a part in vaccine development, Ballou remarks that we’re no longer operating with empirical guess work and using a trial and error method. “The genomics revolution allows us to sequence an entire genome of a virus, determining the proteins needed to create an effective vaccine. We’ve moved the starting point forward.”