International Partnership Aims to Develop Needle-free Vaccines

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The University of South Australia is working to develop needle-free vaccines for Zika, chikingunya, and peanut allergy in a collaboration with Australian biotechnology company Sementis and Enesi Pharma, a United Kingdom-based pharmaceutical company.

In an international collaboration, experts in Zika virus and chikungunya vaccine research at the University of South Australia’s (UniSA’s) Experimental Therapeutics Laboratory at its Cancer Research Institute have collaborated with Australian biotechnology company Sementis and Enesi Pharma, a United Kingdom-based pharmaceutical company focused on developing solid-dose vaccines, to evaluate a needle-free vaccination technology developed by Enesi for Sementis’ Copenhagen Vector (SCV) platform.

In the next phase of research and development partnership between Sementis and UniSA’s lab, work has begun to deliver the single-vectored chikungunya/Zika vaccine and the peanut hypoallergy vaccines as solid-dose implants rather than traditional injections, according to a Nov. 13, 2018 university press release.

SCV uses a replication-incompetent vaccinia virus to stimulate both B-cell and T-cell immune responses. The genes for disease antigens are added to the SCV, which upon inoculation elicits a potent immune response to the disease state.

The implant development is being led by Enesi using its proprietary ImplaVax technology. According to Enesi, the technology comprises three main components:

  • A single precision-engineered solid dose universal vaccine implant (UVI) containing the monovalent or multivalent vaccine or vector construct together with its associated excipient matrix that confers its mechanical strength and stability

  • A separate, disposable unit dose cassette pre-loaded with a single solid UVI

  • A handheld spring-powered actuator (single or multi-use).

Before use, the pre-loaded unit dose cassette is inserted into the actuator. Priming and skin tensioning is achieved by the action of pressing the loaded cassette gently against the skin. Further downward pressure actuates the internal mechanism to instantly deliver the UVI through the skin and directly into the subcutaneous tissue without the need for needles.  Once implanted, the UVI dissolves releasing the active ingredient over time and inducing the desired immune response.

Dr. Natalie Prow, UniSA expert in Zika virus infection and Advanced Queensland Research Fellow, says the new delivery mode for the vaccine will have important advantages that will ensure greater global reach, especially to communities where diseases such as Zika and chikungunya are most prevalent.

“The greatest advantage of an implant vaccine delivery system is that there is better stability for the vaccine”, Prow commented in the release. “The vaccines can be more easily stockpiled for emergency use and there are cost savings in what is required to store the vaccine because in a solid format, it is not as susceptible to temperature fluctuations.”

According to UniSA, its researchers, along with colleagues at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Queensland, Austrailia, are key players in the development of the single vectored combined Zika-chikungunya vaccine for Sementis. Proof-of-concept studies in mice and non-human primates have demonstrated its effectiveness, the university reports.

The UniSA team will also be working to develop the investigational therapeutic peanut allergy vaccine based on the same SCV vector platform developed for the Zika/chikungunya virus.

Lead researcher on the allergies program within the Experimental Therapeutics Laboratory, Dr. Tamara Cooper, says the evaluation of Enesi’s technology with the SCV platform is going to be significant.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to add the benefits of the Enesi delivery system to Sementis’ SCV technology, which could work together to make a successful vaccine for peanut allergy,” said Cooper. “We could change the lives and the health of millions of people around the world who suffer the life-threatening reactions to contact with peanuts.”

Source: University of South AustraliaEnesi PharmaSementis