A Brisbane-based company is developing needle-free vaccine nanotechnology that could completely revolutionise the way we get the jab.
Vaxxas is developing a vaccine patch that can administer pharmaceutical drugs in just 10 seconds, without the use of a needle.
In an interview with the ABC, Vaxxas’ head of medical device and process engineering, Michael Junger, explained that the patch is simply adhered to the skin and removed 10 seconds later. And unlike many other vaccines, the patch doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can be easily administered, which could be a major game changer for immunisations, especially in developing countries.
“We’ve got a very small plastic patch, which is about nine millimetres in diameter, and on the surface of that patch are between 1,200 and 3,000 tiny micro-scale projections,” Junger told the ABC.
“When you touch them with your finger they feel like a nail file. They’re very, very small.”
Basically, the tiny micro-scale projections are coated with the vaccine, which dries and forms a film on top of the patch. Then, the patch is pressed onto your arm, allowing the tiny projections to pierce the surface of your skin and administer the vaccine.
And while thousands of tiny needles may not sound much better than one big one, Junger asserts that it’s not only more efficient, but also way less painful than the traditional method.
“It’s a much more efficient way to deliver a vaccine as there are abundant immune cells just under the surface of the skin, as opposed to intramuscularly, as they do with injections now,” Junger said. “It feels kind of like if you flick your arm with your nail.
“There is a sensation because we have to apply the patch at speed to breach the skin with such a dense array.”
If the technology makes it through clinical trials, it could be a game changer for all sorts of vaccines — including COVID-19. However, Vaxxas requires local study participants to get it across the line.
“We are involved in many clinical studies at the moment, using the device, and these are what’s called phase one clinical studies for many different vaccines — just to prove the safety and efficacy of that before we move on,” Junger told the ABC, noting that the study is funded by The Gates Foundation.
“We’re enrolling for a study in measles rubella with the University of the Sunshine Coast.”
If the studies prove successful, and the technology is approved by the relevant authorities like the Therapeutic Goods Administration, we could see needle-free vaccines readily available within the next two years. Considering it looks like we’ll be living with the coronavirus for the foreseeable future, this could be particularly useful when it comes to booster shots and worldwide vaccine uptake.
You can read more about the clinical trial here.