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Vaxxas receives $6.4M to advance needle-free mRNA vaccines

CEPI will fund Australian medtech manufacturer  Vaxxas to advance the development of its high-density microarray patch for mRNA vaccines.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) will fund Australian medtech manufacturer  Vaxxas to advance the development of its high-density microarray patch for mRNA vaccines.

Vaxxas and CEPI have signed a partnership agreement to advance the development of Vaxxas’ needle-free vaccine-patch delivery technology in a project that could end the need for frozen storage of mRNA vaccines.

CEPI will provide up to USD4.3 million (AUD6.4 million) for preclinical testing of Vaxxas’ platform—a needle-free, high-density microarray patch (HD-MAP) to assess its stability, safety and immunogenicity and to evaluate its potential as a rapid-response technology for heat-stable, dried-formulation mRNA vaccines.

“Earning this significant funding from one of the world leaders in vaccine development is a great honour, and validates the benefits offered by Vaxxas’ HD-MAP vaccine platform in the fight against global epidemic and pandemic threats,” said David Hoey, CEO of Vaxxas.

“In addition to providing an opportunity to get life-saving vaccines for infectious diseases that have a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable populations around the world, the advanced development of HD-MAP delivery of mRNA vaccines could also prove very beneficial for the development of Vaxxas’ internal pipeline across a number of diseases, including Covid-19.”

David Hoey, CEO, Vaxxas

This project is the first to be announced as part of CEPI’s January 2022 call for proposals, aimed at improving thermostability of — and thereby improving equitable access to — a variety of new vaccine platforms.

This call forms part of CEPI’s wider strategic goal of harnessing innovative technologies to improve the speed, scale and access of vaccine development and manufacturing in response to epidemic and pandemic threats.

The potential of needle-free vaccines

HD-MAPs are made up of thousands of microscopic points attached to a small patch. Each of these micro-projections contains a tiny dose of vaccine in a dried formulation. When applied to the skin, the patch delivers vaccine to the abundant immune cells immediately below the skin surface.

HD-MAP vaccine delivery offers many potential advantages over more traditional ways of administering vaccines. For example, the dried form of the vaccine is more stable at higher temperatures than vaccines in liquid formulations.

Vaxxas’ HD-MAPs have proven safe and tolerable in hundreds of trial participants to date, and have been shown to induce equal or greater immune responses to injected vaccines at lower doses. Compared with needle and syringe systems, they are also much easier to administer and are likely to have greater acceptability.

Ultimately, HD-MAP patches could enable a future in which vaccine patches could be mailed directly to peoples’ homes, workplaces and schools, avoiding the delay and inconvenience of traditional needle-and-syringe vaccine scheduling and administration.

Jane Halton, chair of CEPI, said “As we have witnessed with COVID-19, equitable access to vaccines must be at the heart of any effective pandemic response. This is a guiding principle for all of CEPI’s investments.

“Combining Vaxxas’ vaccine-patch technology with the speed and effectiveness of mRNA vaccines could produce a tool that is not only suited as a rapid-response platform for use against unknown pathogens, but could also serve as an additional means to get life-saving vaccines to the most vulnerable populations around the world.”

Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, said: “The advances in mRNA vaccine technology were critical to the global response to COVID-19. One of the major challenges the world faced in getting these life-saving vaccines to vulnerable populations was the need to store them at very low temperatures.

“One possible way to improve access to mRNA vaccines in future would be to adapt their formulation so that they could be delivered using microarray patches. This removes the need for frozen storage, allows for easier distribution and safe delivery with accurate dosing. These qualities make this technology particularly promising as a platform for rapid delivery of vaccines in an outbreak situation, particularly in harder to reach regions.”

CEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil organisations, launched in 2017, to develop vaccines against future epidemics. Its mission is to accelerate the development of vaccines and other biologic countermeasures against epidemic and pandemic threats so they can be accessible to all people in need.

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