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‘Skin patches’ the future of Covid19 vaccines

Republika

The next generation of vaccines may come in the form of skin patches rather than needles and syringes.


Based on an Australian-US team of researchers, a mouse study published in the Science Advances journal used patches measuring one square centimeter coated with 5,000 microscopic needles that are invisible to the naked eye.


These have been covered with an experimental vaccine, a “sub-unit” vaccine, which reproduces spikes similar to those on the surface of the Covid19 virus.


In the study, mice who received skin patches produced high levels of antibodies after two doses – even higher than vaccines administered via syringes. Mice that received only one dose of the vaccine with an adjuvant (a substance enhancing the body’s immune response) did not get sick.


Vaccine patches are also believed to be more effective and more practical. Muscle, into which vaccines are usually injected, has fewer immune cells than needed to react to the drug. Spikes also cause localized skin death, triggering a strong immune response.


Burak Ozdogonlar, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, also backed the vaccine patches: “Less amount of vaccine delivered precisely to skin can activate an immune response similar to intramuscular injection.”


This fact, together with the less stringent logistical demands of syringe-administered vaccines, make skin patches more advantageous.


The patch used in the study was manufactured by Australian company Vaxxas, while two other US-based vaccine makers Micron Biomedical and Vaxess are also working on these.


Vaxess, based in Massachusetts, is working on microneedles that dissolve in the skin. These need fewer spikes per patch (121, to be exact) and are made of a biocompatible protein polymer.


CEO Michael Schrader said: “We’re working on a seasonal Covid and flu combination product that will be mailed directly to patients’ homes, for self-administration.”


Patches by Vaxxas are set to be used in human clinical trials in April, while those produced by Vaxess are scheduled for human trials next summer.

Photo: UNC News


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