A skin patch with an array of tiny silicon micro-needles could substantially reduce the cost, and practically eliminate the pain, of malaria and other vaccinations. The research, led by immunologist Dr Anne Moore at University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland, has also led to the development of tiny, pain-free dissolvable needles, reports the Irish Times. Moore has planned a trip to Silicon Valley to court venture capitalists and technology companies to commercialize the research.
The micro-needle-based patch overcomes one of the main problems with this type of vaccine: overcoming pre-existing immunity to the vaccine, according to a press release posted by UCC. The scientists combined two vaccine technologies to determine if immunity could be further enhanced, and the research suggests that using a micro-needle patch would overcome the need to make and use multiple different vaccine types. Moreover, a high level of protection was achieved using half the amount of vaccine that is typically used. This could have significant consequences on the cost and logistics of vaccination, note researchers.
The experimental vaccine was based on a live adenovirus, which is similar to those that can cause a common cold, but is engineered to be safer and to deliver a protein from the malaria-causing parasite to the immune system.