Despite, or because of, economic difficulties and meager pipelines, the recent past has seen many drug companies investigate
alternative delivery methods for their products. A new deal between GlaxoSmithKline (London) and Intercell (Vienna) reflects
this trend and raises hopes for the development of innovative routes of administration.
The two companies will work to bring needle-free vaccines, based on Intercell's technology, to market. Intercell's Vaccine
Patch is a transcutaneous method of delivering adjuvant and antigen directly to the immune system. The adjuvant passes through
the skin's stratum corneum and spurs cells of the immune system to take up the antigen and bring it to the lymph nodes. The
Vaccine Patch contains the enterotoxin from Escherichia coli, an adjuvant and a powerful stimulator of the immune system. The companies believe that the technology could make vaccinations
easier and more efficient.
They also hope to use Intercell's technology to improve patients' immune response to existing injected pandemic influenza
vaccines. Intercell is developing a Vaccine Enhancement Patch that, in studies, has resulted in a seroconversion rate (i.e.,
the concentration of antibodies) of 70% after a single dose.
If the technology proves sound, the Vaccine Patch could open the door to the development of vaccines that can't safely be
administered through injection, and it could certainly boost compliance among needlephobes. The deal may be a sign that a
wider array of biologicals will soon be available for transcutaneous delivery.
Erik Greb is an assistant editor of Pharmaceutical Technology.