University of Sydney scholars are market testing a device that could eliminate needles and end the need for cold chain storage of vaccines.
The device—a Micro-projection Array Patch, or ‘MAP’—is a one square-centimeter of biomedical polymer – smaller than a postage stamp – embedded with 5,000 vaccine-coated micro-projections that pass through the skin’s outer layer to deliver a vaccine directly to thousands of immune-rich cells in the skin.
The result is more efficient immunisation that does not require refrigeration, as is the case with many current vaccines.
The device is being commercialised by Australian biotech company Vaxxas, with manufacturing research being done by the University of Sydney and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC).
“Delivering vaccines with this technology will be cheaper and easier than liquid vaccines delivered by needles because they don’t need to be refrigerated,” said Cristyn Davies from the University of Sydney.
“This would offer a significant advantage in remote locations, including in developing countries where refrigeration to keep vaccines viable is a major challenge.”
Delivering vaccines with this technology will be cheaper and easier than liquid vaccines delivered by needles.
Cristyn Davies is evaluating the device with her University of Sydney colleagues Professor Rachel Skinner and Professor Robert Booy from Sydney Medical School and Professor Behnam Fahimnia from Sydney Business School.
Together, they will test the utility and acceptability of the device among patients and clinicians and assess its cost-effectiveness compared to conventional immunisation.
The device could also boost immunisation rates – at least ten percent of people have been reported to avoid influenza vaccination due to fear of needles. Further, the World Health Organisation estimates there are 1.3 million deaths each year due to needlestick injuries and cross contamination.
The device is applied to the skin using a disposable applicator that contains the product and ensures reliable delivery.
In 2015 Vaxxas conducted a WHO-funded study testing the usability and acceptability of the applicator for polio vaccinations in Benin, Nepal and Vietnam.
Cristyn Davies said that study provided valuable information and suggested great potential for the Vaxxas product.
“With Vaxxas planning to develop and commercialise the device in Australia, our research will focus on how the applicator is perceived by patients and administrators,” said Cristyn Davies.
Professor Rachel Skinner commented that Australia is a mature, developed vaccination market.
“What immunisation providers expect in using the device and its acceptance by immunisation providers and recipients may differ dramatically from those in developing countries”, she said.
“We will be testing the application in several settings and across different age groups, in the workplace and with GPs,” said Professor Booy.
The findings will be compared with results from the earlier WHO utility study to determine requirements in different markets.
“We are at an important stage of the product development process,” said Charles Ross, Head of Clinical Operations at Vaxxas. “Before investing in manufacturing the applicator at pilot scale, we want to be confident the device satisfies design, end-user and logistical requirements for its intended markets.”
“Vaxxas is a great example of manufacturing innovation in Australia,” said David Chuter, CEO and Managing Director at IMCRC.
“This research will give Vaxxas end-user and distribution information that decreases risk and accelerates the path to market and identifies product and design parameters required for subsequent pilot scale manufacture in Australia”.
The Vaxxas MAP vaccine delivery system was invented at the University of Queensland and now is continuing development at the Translational Research Institute.