New system allows for four years of unrefrigerated storage of vaccines

A system developed and patented by Edinburgh, Scotland-based scientist and entrepreneur Spyridon "Ross" Tsakas may prolong the lifespan of vaccines so that they may be stored without refrigeration for up to four years.

"The prospects are immense,” Tsakas said. “If the single vial system could be used to deliver these products, it would avoid the need for refrigeration and reduce manufacturing and transportation costs. It would also simplify the end process for the user and have a much longer shelf life while avoiding many contamination risks.”

Most liquid-based medicines, including vaccines and antibiotics, are stored in two separate vials - one containing powder and one with the liquid ingredients. The vials are mixed together and create a substance that must be refrigerated or used within a short time frame or they will loses potency and effectiveness.

The new process keeps the medicines in dry powder form inside a specially attached cap that is fitted to a tiny bottle of buffer solution. When the cap is depressed, the powder and solution are mixed and the medicine becomes active immediately. This way, the medicine does not need to be made active until it is needed. The single vial can last for up to four years.

“The beauty of this system is that can allow all sorts of materials, including vaccines," Professor Grahame Bulfield, the former vice principal and head of the College of Science and Engineering of the University of Edinburgh, said. "To be transported around at room temperature and taken into the most difficult conditions in the field, such as in Africa, India and even remote parts of Britain for that matter, and kept for a long time. Some of the materials that have been used so far have had shelf lives of three or four years.”