Brisbane-based company promises to revolutionise vaccines

Do you get queasy at the thought of needles? Does it make vaccination  harder? There might be a solution in sight.

A biotechnology company promising to revolutionise vaccines has opened its global manufacturing facility in Brisbane, with the aim of administering vaccines without injections.

The company, Vaxxas, wants to apply a patch to the skin to deliver a vaccine to the immune cells below the skin’s surface.

Vaxxas’ technology was developed at the University of Queensland and in 2011, the company was established as a start-up by the university’s commercialisation group, UniQuest.

The new headquarters and manufacturing facility will create 200 jobs.

The federal government has given funding, and the Queensland government also gave funds and operational support to Vaxxas in developing the site. 

Breaking down barriers

Speaking to The New Daily, Vaxxas chief technology officer Dr Angus Forster said the patches could remove many of the barriers that prevent vaccination. 

The patch, which requires little knowledge to apply, could be given out en masse in the event of a pandemic.

It even has the potential for people to apply it themselves.

“So we’ve all been through COVID, we’ve all felt the effects of needing to queue for vaccines to wait in line,” Dr Forster said.

“So if you could have a technology which would enable mass access and distribution of vaccines rapidly that could really transform the way in which we respond to a future pandemic.”

The patches also don’t need to be stored in a fridge.

“This has benefits in high-income countries, but also huge impacts in low- [to] middle-income countries where people still can’t get access to vaccines because of temperature control, or because you need a highly skilled healthcare worker to administer their vaccine,” Dr Forster said.

Vaxxas will begin larger tests soon.

Will it work with all vaccines?

Vaccines are really diverse, in terms of how the vaccine is manufactured and how they work, Dr Forster said.

However, Vaxxas has designed the HD-MAP (what the company calls the patch technology) to be capable of working with a broad range of vaccine types.

A COVID-19 vaccine program is in the early stages of a phase one study in Brisbane, Dr Forster said.

Vaxxas also has a seasonal flu program and is working with the US government on a pandemic influenza program which will go into the clinic early next year.

“That could have massive implications that help protect the US population and then we can bring that into the Australian context as well,” Dr Forster said.

At this stage, Vaxxas has only undertaken smaller studies, but the results have been promising, Dr Forster said.

However, Vaxxas is now looking to move forward with larger clinical studies for further evidence on safety and effectiveness.

The ultimate goal is to move past trials and begin getting the patches onto the market, though that is still years away.

“Probably around four to five years away in terms of getting first product market, and that depends on how those studies progress,” Dr Forster said.

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