Rotavirus Vaccination: A paradigm for the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the vaccine development

This talk will cover the history of the human rotavirus vaccine - starting with the discovery of human rotavirus in Australia in 1973. I will discuss how the early epidemiologic studies were facilitated by breakthroughs in modern viral diagnostics and the fact that the rotavirus is shed in very large amounts in the stool in all areas of the world. This characteristic greatly facilitated early epidemiologic analysis.

I will describe how the world-wide epidemiologic investigation clearly indicated the value a vaccine would have. We will then review initial vaccine efforts - their early success followed by a very major failure. The discussion of this initial failure will touch on a variety of ethical and fundamental risk vs. benefit issues.

We will then go on to talk about how second-generation vaccine candidates were developed and found to be “safe and effective”, what that actually means and how these newer vaccines have proven to be very effective in the developed world, but appreciably less so in less developed countries where they are most needed.

We will then move on to a discussion of new third generation vaccines being developed and produced exclusively in the less developed world by local manufacturers and how their cost has been substantially reduced to promote more wide-spread dissemination. Finally, we will wind up with a brief summary of where things stand today and what’s in store for the future.


Over the past 40 years, Dr. Greenberg has focused his research interests on viral infections of the liver, GI tract and respiratory tree. His studies have tended to be of viruses associated with substantial morbidity and/or mortality in both developed and less developed countries and have ranged from basic studies of innate and acquired immunity and viral pathogenesis in animal models to more translational investigations of vaccine efficacy and viral serology in humans.

More specifically, in recent years we have begun to study the role of innate immune mechanisms, type 1 interferon and dendritic cells on rotavirus and influenza pathogenesis and acquired immune responses. Additional recent studies have focused on using novel assays to study the B cell response to influenza vaccination. Dr. Greenberg is currently the Associate Dean for Research, Joseph D. Grant Professor of Medicine and Microbiology & Immunology and Co-Director, Stanford Center for Clinical and Translational Research and Education.

Café Scientifique

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