Needle-free vaccine patches to be available soon, researchers and manufacturers say

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Effective, needle-free vaccines: Since the start of the Covid pandemic, researchers have redoubled their efforts to create patches that deliver life-saving drugs without pain to the skin, a development that could revolutionize medicine.

The technique could help save children’s tears in doctor’s offices and help people with needle phobia.

Beyond that, the skin patches could help with distribution efforts, as they don’t have cold chain requirements – and could even increase the vaccine’s effectiveness.

A new study on mice in the region, published in the journal Science Advances, showed promising results.

The Australian-American team used patches measuring one square inch that were dotted with over 5,000 microscopic spikes, “so tiny you can’t really see them,” David Muller, a virologist at the University of Queensland and co -author of the article, told AFP.

These tips have been coated with an experimental vaccine and the patch is clicked on with an applicator that looks like a hockey puck. “It’s like getting a good hit on the skin,” Muller said.

The researchers used a so-called “subunit” vaccine that mimics the spikes that dot the surface of the coronavirus.

The mice were injected either via the patch for two minutes or with a syringe.

The immune systems of those who received the patch produced high levels of neutralizing antibodies after two doses, including in their lungs, essential for stopping Covid, and the patches outperformed the syringes.

The researchers also found that a subgroup of mice, which had only received a single dose of vaccine containing an additional substance called an adjuvant used to stimulate the immune response, “did not get sick at all.” Muller said.

Easy to Apply – What Makes Them More Effective?

Vaccines are normally injected into our muscles, but the muscle tissue does not contain many of the immune cells needed to respond to the drug, Muller explained.

Additionally, the tiny spikes cause localized skin death, which alerts the body of a problem and triggers a greater immune response.

For the scientist, the logistical benefits couldn’t be clearer.

First, when applied dry to a patch, the vaccine is stable for at least 30 days at 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) and a week at 40C (104F), compared to a few hours at room temperature for Moderna and the Pfizer. vaccines.

This offers a major advantage especially for developing countries.

Second, “it’s very easy to use,” said Muller. “You don’t necessarily need highly trained healthcare professionals to provide it.”

Burak Ozdoganlar, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the US city of Pittsburgh, has also been working on this technology since 2007.

He sees yet another benefit: “A smaller amount of vaccine given precisely to the skin can activate an immune response similar to an intramuscular injection,” he told AFP. This is an important factor as the developing world struggles to obtain enough Covid vaccines.

Ozdoganlar can produce around 300-400 patches per day in his lab, but has not been able to test them on mRNA vaccines, which became established during the pandemic because it was not cleared by Pfizer or Moderna.

‘The future’
The patch used in the study published on Friday was made by the most advanced Australian company Vaxxas. Human trials are planned from April.

Two other American companies are also in the race: Micron Biomedical and Vaxess.

The latter, founded in 2013 and based in Massachusetts, works on a slightly different type of patch, with microneedles that dissolve into the skin.

They say this approach has the advantage of requiring fewer tips per patch – only 121 – of biocompatible protein polymer.

“We are working on a seasonal combined Covid and influenza product that will be sent directly to patients’ homes for self-administration,” CEO Michael Schrader told AFP.

The Covid vaccine they are using is produced by the Medigen company, already licensed in Taiwan.

Vaxess has just opened a factory near Boston, with funding from the National Institutes for Health in the United States. They aim to produce enough patches to vaccinate 2,000 to 3,000 people in clinical trials, which are to be launched next summer.

The main challenge right now is production, with no manufacturer yet able to mass-manufacture enough patches.

“If you want to launch a vaccine, you have to produce hundreds of millions of it,” Schrader said. “We don’t have this scale yet – no one really has this scale.”

But the pandemic has given a boost to the nascent industry, which is now attracting more investors, he added.

“This is the future, in my opinion, it’s inevitable,” Schrader said. “I think you’re going to see over the next 10 years that (is) going to reshape quite dramatically the way we get vaccines around the world.”


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