Vaccine without pain – a future for malaria control

During a discussion organized the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Chris Wilson explained that vaccines are one of most efficient and effective interventions ever developed. Among the discussants was Tycho Speaker who is doing research on transdermal delivery systems using microneedle systems.

Dr Speaker is the primary contributor in developing TransDerm’s proprietary soluble microneedle technology, which is finding utility in skin therapeutics and skin-based vaccinations. This vaccine research has received specific funding for malaria prevention from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation under their Grand Challenges Explorations program.

phase-iii-rtss-trials-dave-poland-path-malaria-vaccine.jpgChris Wilson emphasized that, “We need to do better job to ensure vaccines reach people who need them and increase coverage.” The microneedle patch technology may be able to achieve this for malaria vaccines that are in the pipeline.

Normally such technology may take ten years from conceptualization to actual use in the population. Gates has given Dr Speaker’s group a preliminary one year grant to test the concept, and then there is the possibility for a second grant to develop the practical applications of the microneedle patch if the results are encouraging.

The patch actually resembles a bandaid. The microneedles penetrate the skin and dissolve so there is no medical sharps waste. The vaccine itself in made into a powdered form and is stable without the need for coldchain.  The speakers stressed the practicality – the patch vaccines could even be transported on motorcycle to peripheral health facilities that have no electricity.

The patches can be printed with a picture or pattern that appeals to children and parents to address the perennial vaccine problem of community acceptance.  Within 2-10 minutes the vaccine will be delivered.

The discussants concluded that a small increase in compliance can have enormous effect on the vaccination effort overall, especially when there is no pain. It’s good to know that researchers are not simply looking for an effective malaria vaccine, but also for delivery mechanisms that will make the vaccines more acceptable and actually used.

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