Grant awarded for microneedle vaccination technology

A research group consisting of the Seattle-based nonprofit organization PATH, Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology has been awarded $10 million by the National Institutes of Health to advance a new flu vaccine technology that uses microneedles.

This new method of self-administration involves patches that contain miniature microneedles that dissolve and emit flu vaccine into the skin, MedicalNewsToday.com reports.

The five year grant will take the research group through several technical issues, a study to compare and contrast the effectiveness of the treatment with other methods, and a Phase I clinical trial. The dissolving microneedles have been shown to be more effective at immunization that vaccination with hypodermic needles in animal trials.

“We believe that this technology will increase the number of people being vaccinated especially among the most susceptible populations of children and the elderly,” Georgia Tech Professor Mark Prausnitz, the project’s principal investigator, said, according to MedicalNewsToday.com. “If we can make it easier for people to be vaccinated and improve the effectiveness of the vaccine, we could significantly reduce the number of deaths caused every year by influenza.”

The patches are pain-free and could allow people to apply the patches without visiting a medical facility. Emory assistant professor Ioanna Skountzou, co-principal investigator for the project, told MedicalNewsToday.com that there is evidence shows that the vaccine may even be more effective when administered to the skin than other vaccination methods because of the many antigen presenting cells present.

While the funding focuses on influenza vaccination, these technological advances may help with other future microneedle applications, including vaccination efforts in other countries for other diseases.

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