The project being funded with a Grand Challenges Explorations grant (from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) reminds me a lot of the nanopatch that Mark Kendall and his team have been developing in Australia (a project last mentioned in my Aug. 3, 2011 posting). This new initiative comes from the Georgia Institute of Technology and is aimed at the eradication of polio. From the Nov. 7, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,
The Georgia Institute of Technology will receive funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables researchers worldwide to test unorthodox ideas that address persistent health and development challenges. Mark Prausnitz, Regents’ professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, will pursue an innovative global health research project focused on using microneedle patches for the low-cost administration of polio vaccine through the skin in collaboration with researchers Steve Oberste and Mark Pallansch of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The goal of the Georgia Tech/CDC project is to demonstrate the scientific and economic feasibility for using microneedle patches in vaccination programs aimed at eradicating the polio virus. Current vaccination programs use an oral polio vaccine that contains a modified live virus. This vaccine is inexpensive and can be administered in door-to-door immunization campaigns, but in rare cases the vaccine can cause polio. There is an alternative injected vaccine that uses killed virus, which carries no risk of polio transmission, but is considerably more expensive than the oral vaccine, requires refrigeration for storage and must be administered by trained personnel. To eradicate polio from the world, health officials will have to discontinue use of the oral vaccine with its live virus, replacing it with the more expensive and logistically-complicated injected vaccine.
Prausnitz and his CDC collaborators believe the use of microneedle patches could reduce the cost and simplify administration of the injected vaccine.
Iwonder if this team working at the microscale rather than the nanoscale, as Kendall’s team does, is finding some of the same benefits, from my August 3, 2011 posting,
Early stage testing in animals so far has shown a Nanopatch-delivered flu vaccine is effective with only 1/150th of the dose compared to a syringe and the adjuvants currently required to boost the immunogenicity of vaccines may not be needed. [emphases mine]
I find the notion that only 1/150th of a standard syringe dosage can be effective quite extraordinary. I wonder if this will hold true in human clinical trials.
If they get similar efficiencies at the microscale as they do at the nanoscale, the expense associated with vaccines using killed viruses should plummet dramatically. I do have one thought, do we have to eradicate the polio virus in a ‘search and destroy mission’? Couldn’t we learn to live with them peacefully while discouraging their noxious effects on our own biology?