Oral delivery system could make vaccinations needle-free

Photo: UC Berkeley

Patients could one day self-administer vaccines using a needleless, pill-sized technology that jet-releases a stream of vaccine inside the mouth, according to a proof-of-concept study conducted at UC Berkeley.

The study did not test vaccine delivery in people, but demonstrated that the technology, called MucoJet, is capable of delivering vaccine-sized molecules to immune cells in the mouths of animals. The technology is a step toward improved oral vaccine delivery, which holds the promise of building immunity in the mouth’s buccal region of cells, where many infections enter the body. When patients hold the MucoJet against the inside of their cheek, the device releases a jet stream that directly targets the buccal region. This region is rich in immune cells but underutilized in immunology because of the challenge of efficiently penetrating the thick mucosal layer in this part of the oral cavity with existing technologies, such as the oral spray often used for influenza vaccination.

In laboratory and animal experiments, the research team showed that the MucoJet can deliver a high-pressure stream of liquid and immune system-triggering molecules that penetrate the mucosal layer to stimulate an immune response in the buccal region. The jet is pressurized, but not uncomfortably so, and would remove the sting of needles.

“The jet is similar in pressure to a water pick that dentists use,” said Kiana Aran, who developed the technology while a postdoctoral scholar at Berkeley in the labs of Dorian Liepmann, a professor of mechanical and bioengineering, and Niren Murthy, a professor of bioengineering. Aran is now an assistant professor at the Keck Graduate Institute of Claremont University.

The portable technology, designed to be self-administered, stores vaccines in powder form and could one day enable vaccine delivery to remote locations, but years of further study are needed before the device would be commercially available.

Source: UC Berkeley

Delivering Vaccines Via Drones

Drone to deliver vaccines
Picture: Johns Hopkins University

Vaccines have come a long way scientifically, technologically and economically. But in one crucial aspect—distribution—they are still lagging behind.

“Many existing vaccine supply chains in low- and middle-income countries were established in the late 1970s and ’80s and have since remained relatively unchanged even though populations, diseases, and vaccines have changed substantially,” says Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA, director of operations research at the International Vaccine Access Center at the Bloomberg School.

It’s long been a challenge to distribute vaccines over great distances in treacherous conditions. Now, thanks to technological improvements, unmanned drones have been floated as a possible solution. But is this strategy cost-effective?

To find out, Lee and his team used their HERMES computer simulation model to compare the delivery of vaccines through traditional land-based transportation (a combination of trucks, motorbikes and public transit) to that of unmanned drones. The researchers factored in road conditions, availability of refrigeration, weight, space, weather and other conditions in the simulations.

They found that using drones increased vaccine availability, potentially reaching 96 percent of the targeted population, versus 94 percent for land-based transportation.

Drones also delivered a savings of 8 cents per vaccination, translating into a 20 percent cost savings overall.

Lee and the HERMES team pub- lished their findings in Vaccine in June 2016. Next, Lee says, drone manufacturers are conducting larger-scale pilot studies with different countries and conditions. These studies will evaluate drones’ abilities to meet the guidelines laid out by the HERMES model and to provide additional data to update the simulation model.

The potential impact drones can have on vaccination rates is significant, says Lee, an associate professor in International Health. “They could be particularly valuable when there is more demand for certain vaccines than anticipated and immunization locations must place urgent orders.”

Source: Johns Hopkins University