New vaccine delivery system eases transport to remote areas

March 9, 2020

Transporting vaccines to remote or developing regions comes with a host of problems, with solutions including keeping them in sugary gels, freeze-drying them so they can be stored at room temperature and putting them in a state of suspended animation. A new delivery method from scientists at University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), US, preserves the living strains of viruses in a thin, lightweight film without the need for refrigeration – the film can be taken orally and rapidly dissolves to leave no trace.

The scientist took inspiration from the way the DNA of some living things can be preserved for millions of years in amber. They sought to replicate these storage abilities in a substance made up of different sugars and salts to form an amber-like material, much like hard candy.After over 450 attempts, with the candy-like materials often killing the viruses or crystallising them during storage, making them unfit for use, the scientists had a winning recipe – the living elements were successfully loaded into the candy-like material and housed between protective layers that would be peeled off when necessary.

The low-cost delivery system is around one-thousandth the size of traditional vaccine vials and needs no refrigeration either during transport or administration. If it makes its way into widespread use, it could help avoid the millions of syringes, vials, packaging and other waste that goes with traditional vaccination methods.

The scientists also believe that the system could be used later for a COVID-19 vaccine, as they have already demonstrated its ability to carry Ebola vaccines and a vaccine for influenza A at a proof-of-concept level.

Lead researcher Maria A. Croyle at UT Austin said, “Once we know the specific qualities of a vaccine candidate, we can adapt the film’s components to meet those requirements, suspending and sealing it within the film matrix in a way that allows it to withstand extreme temperature changes and release the vaccine components in a precise and controlled manner.

“It is essentially a plug and play platform,” she added.

Category: Features, Pharmaceuticals

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