Vaccinations for children and adolescents, but much more efficient, effective, and pain-free. With ceramic vaccine patches it is becoming reality. “In this way, the vaccine ends up directly where it should be, namely with the specialized immune cells in the skin,” says Mike de Leeuw, CEO of MyLife Technologies in Leiden, the Netherlands.
De Leeuw prefers not to use the word ‘needles’, because these are so small that they do not touch nerves or blood vessels in the skin. In the first clinical trials they have proven to be pain-free for the volunteers and, as important, hassle-free for professionals applying them. “It’s a small, flat disc of one centimetre diameter with up to hundreds of microneedles that contain and release the vaccine, with a sticky patch on the outside. It really feels like you are putting on and taking off an ordinary plaster”. One in three adults suffer from needlestick fear to a greater or lesser extent, accumulated from their childhood on. So this innovation is good news for that specific group.”
At least as important is the fact that the vaccines end up in the right place immediately, reducing the total vaccine dose by a factor five till twenty times. “A substantial volume of lymph fluid flows just under your outer skin layer, where a type of immune cells reside that are specialized in identifying infections by viruses, bacteria and toxins coming from outside.
By delivering the vaccine there, it is immediately recognized by these specialized immune cells, which then initiate the immunization process from the lymph nodes onwards.
In-the-skin delivery is much more efficient, as opposed to needle injections into muscle, where these specialized immune cells normally don’t have a role. Not only the dose-saving potential, but also the fact that the ceramic material allows for vaccine distribution under ambient conditions will result in enormous cost-savings. Finally, this technology platform can enable new vaccines to new mutants or emerging diseases to be rolled out much more quickly among the targeted population during an outbreak situation.
Vaccine patch against HPV and multiple cancers
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and the national vaccination campaigns against it seems to De Leeuw to be the perfect starting point for the vaccine patches. HPV causes several diseases worldwide that are mainly transmitted through sexual contact, such as genital warts, but also cervical cancer and other cancers. “Together, HPV accounts for four percent of all new cancer patients, or 700,000 worldwide each year, of which 250,000 in the EU and USA alone. Strikingly, protection through vaccination is widely available. It is most effective if someone gets it between the ages of nine and fifteen, when only one or two doses provide lifelong protection. “It is therefore much more efficient to vaccinate before or during puberty, preferably before the first sexual contact. Currently, coverage among young adults in Europe and the USA is still too low to curb the wave of HPV-induced cancers 20 till 30 years after initial infection. Fear of needles, peer pressure and cultural bias concerning sexually transmitted diseases plays a major role in this. Especially teenagers block more often with fear of needles than adults; simply administering a lower dose with a patch on the skin helps prevent that.”
With the first clinical trial MyLife Technologies has shown that this innovation is completely safe and pain-free. “The next step is to demonstrate a sufficient immune response for HPV, among other infectious diseases that we work on. In this way we prove that this technology platform and our products offer substantial benefits over the classic method of vaccination. We aim to raise twenty million euros in the coming year through investors, grants and donations. We will expand our portfolio of vaccine-products and scale-up the production. With that investment this fantastic innovation can become the new normal for HPV and other vaccinations within five years, also outside the EU.”