RSV vaccine: a Belgian scientific success story


Developed in the Belgian facilities of GSK's pharmaceutical laboratory, Arexvy is the world's first vaccine to combat Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

RSV is a very common virus with a general structure similar to that of other viruses such as influenza or coronavirus. It occurs seasonally, in October and April in the northern hemisphere, and in May and October in the southern hemisphere, and affects all age groups.

In infants, it can cause bronchiolitis. But when it strikes elderly people who are immunocompromised or suffer from cardiopulmonary comorbidities, it aggravates pre-existing conditions such as asthma and heart failure, and causes complications such as pneumonia.

The virus is responsible for 500,000 hospitalisations and 30,000 associated deaths every year in developed countries, including about 20,000 in Europe.

Long considered to be one of the major challenges in vaccinology, the fight against RSV has been the subject of studies around the world since the 1960s. Research was complicated by the uncontrolled inflammatory responses triggered by the first types of vaccine, which were based on virus inactivation technologies with an aluminium-based adjuvant.

GSK has been conducting research in Belgium for some thirty years. The first clinical studies launched in the 1990s even had to be halted for two other candidate vaccines against the same virus, one paediatric, the other maternal.

However, the RSV vaccine for people aged 60 and over has already been registered in the United States, and more recently in the European Union.

The Arexvy vaccine is currently in mass production at the Wavre facility and will be ready to be administered as early as next autumn.