A needle-free vaccine patch may be better at fighting COVID-19 variants such as Omicron and Delta than the traditional needle-based vaccine, according to a University of Queensland study in mice.
The study, conducted in partnership with Brisbane-based biotech company Vaxxas, tested the Hexapro SARS-CoV-2 spiked vaccine using Vaxxas’ high-density microarray (HD-MAP) technology, and the results showed the patch was significantly more effective at neutralizing the COVID-19 variants .
UQ’s Dr Christopher McMillan said the vaccine patch was more effective against the new variants than the current injectable SAR-CoV-2 vaccine.
“The high-density microarray patch is a vaccine delivery platform that precisely delivers the vaccine to the layers of the skin that are rich in immune cells,” said Dr. McMillan.
“We found that the patch vaccination was about 11 times more effective against the Omicron variant compared to the same vaccine administered via needle.”
He said the results extend beyond the Hexapro vaccine.
“So far, every type of vaccine we’ve tested via the patch, including subunit, DNA, inactivated virus and conjugate, has produced a better immune response compared to traditional needle vaccination methods,” he said.
UQ’s Dr David Muller said currently available vaccines may not be as effective due to the constant emergence of new variants of COVID-19, putting researchers at a crossroads.
“This reduction in efficacy was accentuated by the Omicron variant, which contains more than 30 mutations in the spike protein,” Dr. Muller said.
“The large number of mutations has given the virus the ability to evade the immune responses caused by current vaccines.
“Nevertheless, patch technology can offer a new—and more effective—weapon in our arsenal at a time when new variants are mutating at a rapid rate.
“The patches are not only more effective against the new variants, but they are also much easier to use than needle-based vaccines.
“But it’s important to stress that existing vaccines are still an effective way to fight serious illness and disease caused by this virus, and now is not the time to let your guard down.”
Vaxxas CEO David Hoey said this is further evidence that the technology platform could be a game-changer to help countries better respond to global health emergencies such as current and future pandemics.
“We continue to build our manufacturing capabilities and accelerate product development in preparation for large-scale clinical trials,” he said.
“This includes the construction of our first manufacturing facility in Brisbane to support the transition to commercialization of our HD-MAP vaccine candidates, including the Hexapro patch against COVID-19.”
The study was published in The vaccine.
The research was funded by an Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship awarded to Dr David Muller.