The Vaxxas “Nanopatch” Promises Needle-Free Vaccinations
For a majority of the people in this world who were fortunate enough to receive vaccinations, there are probably still some lingering unpleasant memories of being stuck with needles as a child. One Australian startup, Vaxxas, promises to eliminate the need for needles to be used in vaccinations by using their “Nanopatch” application method.
Launched in 2011, Australian startup Vaxxas is looking to commercialize the company’s novel vaccine delivery technology called the Nanopatch™. Just last week, Vaxxas closed a $20 million Series B funding round from new and existing investors. This brings the total funding for Vaxxas to $35 million so far which was received from firms including One Ventures, Brandon Capital, Healthcare Ventures and Medical Research Commercialisation Fund. In 2012, Vaxxas announced a deal with Merck (NYSE:MRK) which injected extra research funds into the Company and potentially opened up a suite of vaccines to eventually be used with the patch.
The Nanopatch is smaller than a typical postage stamp and utilizes an array of thousands of vaccine-coated microprojections that perforate into the outer layers of the skin when applied with an applicator. The Nanopatch array itself consists of a 1 cm2 square of silicon with ~20,000 microprojections on its surface which are invisible to the naked eye.
Traditionally, microneedle delivery systems have been held back from commercialization due in part to challenges in manufacture scaling.
The Advantages of Vaxxas
The Vaxxas vaccine delivery system is being developed with high volume, low-cost manufacture in mind, using well-established manufacturing techniques. Lower dosages are needed as tests have shown a protective immunogenic response when using as little as one-hundredth of the dose required by conventional needle and syringe. Supply chain costs are significantly reduced since vaccine distribution would not need to rely on a costly cold distribution chain. And lastly, the application method is not likely to cause distress to people that dislike needles (about 10% of the general population) and will be pain-free.
A recent article by Xconomy states that the latest $20 million in funding will be used to test a flu vaccine on humans later this year and is expected to take Vaxxas through the next 3 years. While there are other needless vaccine technologies on the market today, Vaxxas claims that their technology can generate a greater immune response than its competitors. In the same article, Vaxxas CEO David Hoey stated that in regards to the deal with Merck, “the relationship was progressing”. Cost savings are always a compelling value proposition in business, especially coupled with the “feel good” element of not having to subject our children to painful needle pricks. Vaxxas doesn’t seem likely to raise funds through an IPO anytime soon but remains an interesting private company to watch in the needle-free vaccination space.
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