Vaccines are one of the most cost effective methods of improving public health thereby increasing the quality of life. Prophylactic and therapeutic treatment by vaccines can prevent infectious diseases and some cancers and could also be used in the treatment of autoimmune disorders. An appreciation of this potential has resulted in a burgeoning literature which not only describes the scientific efforts being made into designing new and improved vaccines but also drives the efforts being made by public health organizations world-wide in delivering vaccines to the community. At the forefront of technologies being applied to the design of vaccines is the use of synthetic peptides; the chemical technologies used to assemble peptides have made great strides over the last decade and assembly of hi-fidelity peptides which can be of high molecular weight, multimeric or even branched is now almost routine. Together with the advances in peptide technology our understanding of the molecular events that are necessary to induce immune responses has also made great strides. The central role that peptides play in immune recognition is now recognised and rules are emerging that are being applied to the construction of peptide-based vaccines that, in the right context, can induce humoral (antibody) and cellular (cytotoxic and helper T cell) immune responses. Synthetic peptides are exquisitely placed to answer questions about immune recognition and along the way to provide us with new and improved vaccines.