A new company called Vaxxas has just opened a Cambridge, MA, office to work with Merck, among others, on vaccine delivery technology. The company has a proprietary transdermal technology, called Nanopatch, that has the potential to allow vaccine antigens to be dry-coated onto nanoscale projections on one side of the patch, such that the antigen is delivered to immune cells in the skin. (Conventional vaccination involves either an oral medication, or intramuscular injections with a needle.) The Nanopatch technology was developed by researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia, licensed to its commercialization arm, UniQuest, and then acquired by the venture-cap-funded Vaxxas, which was founded last year.
Besides potentially reducing the volume of vaccine needed for each application tenfold, the technology transforms vaccines into room-temperature products. “Because the skin is rich in cells that defend against infection, it’s a more efficient place to deliver the antigens that provide vaccine protection,” says David Hoey, newly appointed CEO of the firm. Commercialization, however, is years in the future. Vaxxas isn’t the only company developing a patch-based delivery mechanism, nor are patches the only way to avoid the need for refrigerated preservation of vaccines. But in both cases, refrigerated, injected vaccines are likely to be a dominant form of delivery for the near future.