Merck tests needle-free vaccines

In October, the Whitehouse Station, New Jersey–based Merck agreed to license a novel vaccine delivery system from Sydney, Australia–based biotech Vaxxas, for testing with an undisclosed Merck vaccine candidate. The biotech's Nanopatch, needle-free delivery platform is a densely packed array (>20,000/cm2) of 110-μm-long needles dry-coated with vaccine. The antigens are delivered just below the skin's surface where they target around 50% of the skin's immune cells triggering a strong immune response. The Nanopatch delivered Merck's human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil into mouse-ear epidermal and dermal skin. The vaccine prompted production of virus-neutralizing antibodies, in all mice (PLos One 5, e13460, 2010). With Nanopatch delivery, the vaccine dose could be cut to as little as one-hundredth of that of a traditional vaccine, reducing the cost for high-priced or difficult-to-manufacture antigens and easing the pressure on strained resources in pandemics. The system has other advantages, according to Professor Ian Frazer, director, Diamantina Institute, University of Queensland: “Microneedles use dried vaccine material, so don't need to be kept cold, and could even be posted out for use at home, for example, as traveler's vaccines or in remote areas.”

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Elvidge, S. Merck tests needle-free vaccines. Nat Biotechnol 30, 1155 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt1212-1155a

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