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Hopes for vaccines at tropical temperatures

Scientists at the University of Oxford have found a simple, cost-effective way of making vaccines stable, even at tropical temperatures

Scientists at the University of Oxford, in collaboration with Nova Bio-Pharma Technologies, have found a simple, cost-effective way of making vaccines stable, even at tropical temperatures.

Published in Science Translational Medicine, the study describes how mixing the vaccine with sugars commonly used as stabilising agents and cryoprotectants for biological products, before slowly drying the mixture onto a filter-like membrane, allowed vaccines to be stored at temperatures of up to 45°C for six months, and even longer with minimal losses.

The active part of the vaccine is protected by the sugary film on the membrane, while the vaccine can be rehydrated by flushing the membrane with water.

"The beauty of this approach is that a simple plastic cartridge, containing the membrane with vaccine dried on, can be placed on the end of a syringe," says the study's lead author Dr Matt Cottingham of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford.

"Pushing a liquid solution from the syringe over the membrane would then release the vaccine and inject it into the patient."

This new method provides an alternative to refrigeration for preserving vaccines based on live viruses which must remain infectious to be effective. Keeping vaccines at low temperatures is often a costly and complex procedure in developing countries where vaccine preventable diseases such malaria are prevalent.

"Currently vaccines need to be stored in a fridge or freezer," explains Cottingham. "That means you need a clinic with a nurse, a fridge and an electricity supply, and refrigeration lorries for distribution. If you could ship vaccines at normal temperatures, you would greatly reduce cost and hugely improve access to vaccines."

Managing director of Nova, Dr Peter White, described his enthusiasm for the study's results: "This new technique of drug delivery is one of the most exciting developments in the British pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, especially as it can be used for highly unstable products, for instance vaccines for malaria."

A commercial strategy for the development of the technology is being worked on by Isis Innovation, Oxford University's technology transfer company and the method's inventors.

 

18th February 2010

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