Immunizing vast amounts of people without the need for trained medical personnel would, obviously, be incredibly helpful to health officials responding to pandemics or trying to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases in developing countries. And a tiny patch comprised of a hundred microneedles that dissolve into the skin could be the solution.
Using a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, researchers at Emory University, Seattle-based non-profit PATH and Georgia Institute of Technology are working to determine whether the patch, which was shown in an animal study to be effective at delivering vaccines, could one day be used to administer flu shots. According to a recent Georgia Tech release:
The five-year grant will be used to address key technical issues and advance the microneedle patch through a Phase I clinical trial. The grant will also be used to compare the effectiveness of traditional intramuscular injection of flu vaccine against administration of vaccine into the skin using microneedle patches.
Researchers hope the funding accelerates development of the microneedle patches to make them available for general use within five to ten years. As someone who has yet to outgrow her childhood fear of needles, I eagerly await the day the painless patch is offered in substitution to the syringe.
Previously: Vaccination: Replacing the needle with a patch
Photo by Mark Prausnitz/Georgia Institute of Technology