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NIH grants fund flu vaccine patches

According to researchers at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, a flu vaccine could be delivered through microneedles in patches applied to the skin.

According to researchers at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, a flu vaccine could be delivered through microneedles in patches applied to the skin.

Using new grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) totalling approximately USD 11.5m over five years, researchers from the two institutions will develop a new vaccine product using the microscopic needles.

The combined team will assess the effectiveness of transdermal patches, which contain arrays of microscopic needles coated or loaded with vaccine. The aim is to design patches which could be stored for long periods of time at room temperature, while increasing the breadth and duration of immunity to influenza with smaller amounts of vaccine.

The project team already has experience in microneedle development, influenza vaccines, vaccine delivery systems, product development and interdisciplinary collaboration. The research could also have implications for immunisation programmes in developing countries, where eliminating the use of conventional needles could make vaccines more widely available and avoid disease transmission caused by hypodermic re-use.

In April 2007, the NIH awarded a USD 32.8m, seven-year contract to Emory, along with the University of Georgia, to establish the Emory/UGA Influenza Pathogenesis and Immunology Research Centre. The research facility aims to improve the effectiveness of flu vaccines through a number of different projects studying how influenza viruses attack their hosts, how they are transmitted and what new immune targets might be identified for antiviral medicines.

Dr Richard Compans, professor of microbiology and immunology in the Emory School of Medicine, said: "A vaccine administered through a skin patch would have a number of advantages, including less discomfort to the recipients, lower cost and reduced production time. Potentially, individuals could administer the vaccine to themselves, perhaps after receiving it in the mail."

Dr Mark Prausnitz, professor at the Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, said: "We expect that this research will lead to a better way of delivering the flu vaccine, which will allow more people who need it to receive the immunisation in a convenient and effective way. Beyond that, the possibility of replacing a hypodermic needle with a microneedle patch should significantly impact the way that other vaccines are delivered."

30th September 2008

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