Speaking last night at the TEDGlobal event in Edinburgh, Pofessor Mark Kendall discussed his new Nanopatch invention that delivers vaccinations without the need for injections.
Kendall hopes that the Nanopatch, which can be made for less than $1 and uses only a hundredth of the vaccine dose delivered by syringes, will find use in the developing world. "A vaccine that had cost $10 [£6.40] can be brought down to just 10 cents,” said Kendall, speaking to the BBC.
The Nanopatch works by substituting the single point of the needle for thousands of tiny projections that perforate the skin. "The projections on the nanopatch work with the skin's immune system. We target these cells that reside just a hair's breadth from the surface of the skin," said Kendall.
"It seems that we may have been missing the immune sweet spot which may be in the skin rather than the muscle which is where traditional needles go."
As well as improving on the delivery system of vaccinations, the Nanopatch is also more durable. Traditional vaccinations are liquid and must be kept refrigerated when in storage. The Nanopatch, however, can be kept at 23C (73F) for up to a yaer.
This makes the patch well suited for developing countries where electricity failures can destroy vital medicines. "Half of vaccines in Africa are not working properly because refrigeration has failed at some point in the chain," said Kendall.
The patch has so far been tested to administer the flu vaccine at the professor’s university in Queensland, but field tests will soon begin in Papua New Guinea, aimed at treaking the human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer.
The British Society for Immunology have stated some reservations regarding the patch though, noting that the type of immune cell the new invention targets might create problems with “transit time and ensuring adequate delivery of the vaccine.”
However, the Society also stated that if these issues could be overcome then the invention does offer “the potential to dispense with conventional [vaccinations].”