Needle-free virus vaccine trial to start

 

Anyone scared of needles will be glad to know there could be an alternative for a coronavirus vaccine.

Scientists are soon to start phase one clinical trials in humans of a DNA vaccine that would be administered through a jet of air.

So far it's been shown to be safe and effective in mice and small monkey studies, and with the project now awarded $3 million from Australia's Medical Research Future Fund, researchers can move to the next stage.

The project is a joint collaboration between the University of Sydney, the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth, the University of Adelaide and Thailand-based pharmaceutical company BioNet.

A Picture: PharmaJet video showing how the injector device works.
A Picture: PharmaJet video showing how the injector device works.


University of Sydney's Associate Professor Nick Wood said BioNet had genetically engineered a licensed vaccine for whooping cough used in Thailand.

"When the pandemic happened they were able to turn part of the factory into investing the DNA COVID vaccine," he said.

The vaccine is slightly different to those being trialled at Oxford University or the University of Queensland, which are not DNA vaccines.

"The thing about a DNA vaccine is you need to get it inside human cells," Associate Professor Wood said.

"This is air jet system and we need the (PharmaJet) device to get the vaccine inside the cells. The idea is it pushes the DNA inside the cells."

Once the DNA is inside the cells, it would produce a spike protein and the body's immune cells could recognise that protein and make antibodies.

Other studies using DNA vaccines are Moderna's mRNA vaccine which is delivered via a fatty droplet, and Inovio's Cellectra 2000.

There is no DNA vaccine on the market but jet injectors are used for the flu vaccine in the US. Picture: Picture: PharmaJet
There is no DNA vaccine on the market but jet injectors are used for the flu vaccine in the US. Picture: Picture: PharmaJet


The PharmaJet injector looks like an adrenaline pen and Associate Professor Wood said it wasn't completely painless.

He said the best thing about a DNA vaccine was researchers could make large quantities.

"The main thing is the DNA vaccine you can make large amounts quickly," he said.

"If the virus changes and the spike protein changes, we can change the genetic code and make a new one.

"You also don't have any needles and all the wastage, or a risk of needle stick injury."

He said the air jet system was already being used to administer the flu vaccine in the US.

There is currently no licensed DNA vaccine on the market.

"It's very new technology but very promising," he said.

The project will now have to get TGA approval before recruitment of 150 people for the study can start.

They will need 75 people in the 18 to 59-year-old group and 75 in the 60 to 74-year-old group.

"If it goes nicely and it's safe, we'll move to phase two next year," Associate Professor Wood said.

"There's not going to be a perfect vaccine (in the world) initially. There might be a vaccine combination where a DNA vaccine would be a prime vaccine and a vector vaccine would be a booster."

Originally published as Needle-free virus vaccine trial to start


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