Scientists developing technique to deliver multiple vaccines in single jab

The new technique could eliminate the need for booster injections but it could be 20 years before it is ready for use

The new technique could eliminate the need for booster injections but it could be 20 years before it is ready for use

One particular application for this technology is in vaccines for developing countries where parents might not be able to bring small children to a remote clinic numerous times for a sequence of injections and precisely-scheduled boosters. The microparticles, invented by engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), can be programmed to release their load at a precise and predictable time.

Typically, children are recommended to receive nine immunisation injections in their first year (five different vaccines covering 123 diseases with booster shots), and it's fair to say that it's rarely a pleasant experience for anyone. "This could have a significant impact on patients everywhere, especially in the developing world where patient compliance is particularly poor", says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT.

To achieve their goal, they set out to develop a sealable polymer cup made from PLGA, a biocompatible polymer that has already been approved for use in medical devices such as implants, sutures, and prosthetic devices. The new method uses stereolithography to create a silicon mould for both the cups and lids, sized so that 200 moulds can fit onto a standard glass slide. A custom-built automated device fills the cups with vaccine, then lids are lowered onto the cup and the whole assembly heated to seal it. To create the crucial multi-vaccine vehicle, several cups have to be filled with different vaccines and fused together; the molecular weight and structure of the polymer backbone of the PGLA copolymer forming each cup determines how fast the polymer degrades in the bloodstream and releases the cup's cargo.

In mice, the researchers showed that particles release in sharp bursts, without prior leakage, at 9, 20, and 41 days after injection. They then tested particles filled with ovalbumin, a protein found in egg whites that is commonly used to experimentally stimulate an immune response. The team found that single injection of these particles induced a strong immune response that was similar to that of two regular injections with double dose.

The team have also designed particles that can break down after hundreds of days and are now testing the particles with a number of drugs and vaccines.

The findings are reported in the journal Science.

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