By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
The needle-free nanopatch vaccine delivery system is coming soon after a consortium of investors put up $15 million for its development. The money will enable University of Queensland's Professor Mark Kendall to continue his work on the technology. It is described as the biggest breakthrough in vaccine delivery since the invention of the syringe more than 150 years ago.
The nanopatch has thousands of small projections to deliver vaccines to abundant immune cells in the skin, doing away with needles plunged into muscle where there are few immune cells. Early stage testing in animals has shown a nanopatch-delivered flu vaccine is effective with only 1/150th of the dose compared to a syringe. The nanopatch is also expected to cut needle stick injuries and cross contamination. This would avoid needle borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis. And it does not need refrigeration like traditional vaccines.
Prof Kendall of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, said that's one of the most exciting things about the new technology because it will dramatically cut costs and make transportation easier. He said, “In Africa about half of vaccines aren't working properly because of a breakdown in the cold chain…The nanopatch also offers a way to stop needle-stick injuries during vaccination.” He explained that the idea came to him about eight years ago when he was bored at a conference and “started doodling”.
Money from the Federal Government's innovation investment fund has helped establish the new company Vaxxas, which will commercialise the nanopatch. The investment is led by OneVentures, with co-investors Brandon Capital, the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) and US-based HealthCare Ventures.