Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology vaccinated mice against influenza using patches that contained dissolving microneedles. This administration method provided at least as much protection as traditional hypodermic injections, according to their July 2010 article in Nature Medicine.
A $10-million grant from the National Institutes of Health will enable the researchers, in cooperation with Emory University, to develop the patch further and conduct a Phase I clinical trial. The patch uses a dry form of the vaccine, and the team will study its stability to determine whether it can be stored without refrigeration.Another goal of the study is to ensure that the patch is simple and reliable enough for any patient to use without assistance, says Mark Prausnitz, the project's principal investigator. If the study is successful, the patch eventually could become a more popular delivery device than autoinjectors.
Until recently, transdermal delivery had been restricted to small and lipophilic molecules. Projects such as Prausnitz's open the possibility that vaccines and other large-molecule drugs could be given effectively through the skin. Such easy and painless administration could have big benefits for public health. For needlephobes and drug-delivery scientists alike, the prospects are exciting.
Erik Greb is an associate editor of Pharmaceutical Technology.