Scientists working on pain-free nanopatch vaccination

Australian researchers are working on a stamp-sized needle-free vaccination that could revolutionize immunization programs throughout the world.

Mark Kendall and his team of researchers at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland received a $10,000 research award for the 2011 Eureka Prize for Excellence in Research by an Interdisciplinary Team. The award will be used to fund research into the nanopatch vaccine that can be used to replace the needle and syringe in the immunization process, the Australian Museum reports.

"For immunization experts, the Nanopatch is vaccine utopia," Frank Howarth, the director of the Australian Museum, said, according to the Australian Museum. "It is cheap, painless, very effective, can save countless lives at very low risk, can be transported without refrigeration and can be given without the need for extensive training."

The nanopatch contains 20,000 micro-projections per square centimeter that are dry-coated with vaccine. Upon placing the patch against the skin, the projections push through the narrow layer beneath the skin surface, which is rich with immune cells.

The nanopatch uses a drastically smaller dose of vaccine, does not require refrigeration and reduces the cost to the health system. The lack of refrigeration is particularly important because the World Health Organization estimates that 50 percent of vaccines in Africa do not work properly because of a failure of the cold chain, the Australian Museum reports.

The Eureka Prize for Excellence in Research by an Interdisciplinary Team is sponsored by the Australian Research Council.