Mark Kendall earned the Young Florey Medal in 2016 for developing a breakthrough in vaccines. So, what did the professor at the University of Queensland invent? The Nanopatch.
Kendall’s work drew the attention of the CDC and the World Health Organization. Now the professor is working with Vaxxas and the school’s Institute for Bio engineering and Nanotechnology to get the patch ready for the public.
Vaxxas is a company working to improve current vaccines and create the next generation of immunizations.
According to Vaxxas, not only is it needle-free, but this technology can save on money and promise greater safety.
Based on looks alone, the Nanopatch lives up to its name.
Rather than a needle, the vaccine is given through a patch that looks like a small Band-Aid. This may not make needles obsolete, but can instead provide an alternative for those that don’t want an injection.
The patch targets immune-rich cells on the outer layer of the skin with different micro projections.
No longer would you need an injection that goes inches deep. These micro projections release just beneath the skin.
The vaccines themselves are dry and coated on the patch. The coating releases almost immediately upon making contact with the skin.
Current vaccines target specific muscles when injected. The direct contact and release to the cells of the skin are an alternative to those muscle-focused vaccines.
Early test subjects have lauded the patch as pain-free and the technology may help remove additives from vaccines.
These additives, or adjuvants, are used to increase the body’s immune response. By targeting the immune-rich cells, these vaccines would no longer need adjuvants. Oftentimes, the adjuvants force the vaccines to be refrigerated before use or when transported. With dry coating on the vaccine and no additives, the Nanopatch doesn’t need cold storage.
This could also be revolutionary for the developing world. Many immunizations must follow a cold chain. This means they must be kept at a certain temperature to stay effective. A patch would not have these same restraints, making it easier to vaccinate in rural communities.
These patches have already proven successful in delivering the polio vaccine. In the trial studies, only one percent of the dose that’s currently used was needed to prevent the disease.
This decreased dosage could help prevent vaccine shortages. If less vaccine is needed per person, more individuals can be vaccinated.
While this may seem like a miracle for anyone with a fear of needles, it may do more for poorer countries.
Because the Nanopatch is cost-effective, it would be easier to access in impoverished areas. Kendall hopes to produce vaccines that cost 50 cents per dose. This is significantly less than immunizations currently cost to deliver to the developing world.
Although the patch hasn’t been tested on humans, it’s shown promise when used on rats. The first human studies are planned for later this year.
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Written for Passport Health by Kaitlyn Luckow. Kaitlyn is a freelance writer, photographer and English teacher in Milwaukee. She has a passion for capturing and writing other people’s stories. You can find her at sayhellostory.com.