Flu vaccine patch to get 5-year test

February 15, 2011

A revolutionary flu vaccine patch is likely to be developed in the course of an upcoming 5-year clinical trial. Data indicate that it is more effective in animals than are traditional injections.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently awarded $10 million to the Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, and PATH, a nonprofit organization in Seattle, Wash., to test and refine the influenza vaccine patch.

The technology allows for the painless self-administration of flu vaccine by means of tiny microneedles that dissolve into the skin. The 5-year grant will advance the microneedle patch through a Phase 1 clinical trial and compare the effectiveness of traditional intramuscular injection of flu vaccine to that of microneedle patches. In animals, vaccination with the dissolving microneedles has been shown to have greater effectiveness than vaccination with hypodermic needles, according to researchers.

The technology will also increase the number of people being vaccinated - especially susceptible populations such as children and the elderly - and reduce healthcare costs, according to Mark Prausnitz, the project's principal investigator and a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

"We believe a self-administered vaccine patch could reduce healthcare costs in 2 ways. First, self-administration removes the need to visit a clinic and use the precious time of a doctor or nurse. Second, the convenience of self-administration should increase the number of people getting vaccinated, which will reduce the number of people getting sick with influenza," Prausnitz said.

Although the patch would initially be available by prescription only, it could become over-the-counter at some point in the future, Prausnitz said.