INNOVATION

Vaccinations Without Needles Thanks To An Australian Breakthrough

Human trials using the needle-free technology have started.

09/11/2016 3:12 PM AEDT | Updated 09/11/2016 9:50 PM AEDT
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Thomas S England
Classmates look on as a girl overreacts to anti-measles vaccination in the 1970s.

Today's youngsters may be the last generation to have needle vaccinations, thanks to an Australian Bandaid-like invention.

The nanopatch, created by one-time rocket scientist and University of Queensland Associate Professor Mark Kendal, is painless and effective with a fraction of the dose.

And it's not a pie-in-the-sky concept -- human trials have already begun in Australia.

Kendal will Thursday be awarded the 2016 CSL Young Florey Medal which comes with a $25,000 prize money.

What is a Nanopatch?

The small square of silicon with 20,000 microscopic spikes delivers vaccines directly to the skin's immune cells.

Supplied
A Nanopatch or a needle, what do you prefer?

It's painless, requires a fraction of the dose, doesn't need refrigeration, and eliminates needle phobia.

Now human clinical trials are underway in Brisbane, and the WHO is planning a polio vaccine trial in Cuba in 2017.

"Vaccines today on the whole are pretty effective but they're delivered with a needle and syringe which is technology that's been around for 160 years, and the needle syringe has many problems," he said.

"First is needle phobia -- 20 percent of the population have that -- second is the vaccine is wet and it needs refrigeration and the third is that the needle syringe places the vaccine into muscle which is... not a preferred immune sweet spot."

He said the Nanopatch may look like a nicotine patch, but it doesn't work like one.

AIBN / University of Queensland
Associate professor Mark Kendal's invention could save lives by making vaccines cheaper and more readily available.

"We're all familiar with standard patches like a nicotine patch and the way they work is quite different; it's a diffusion into the skin, it makes its way in over time," he said.

"That doesn't work for vaccines because they're really big molecules, they can't get their own way into the skin."

Rather, the patch has thousands of tiny little points that break the outer layer of the skin, delivering the vaccine to lower layers.

He said if human trials were successful, it could mean more people could be vaccinated around the world.

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