Researchers develop safer vaccine patches

Researchers develop safer vaccine patches


TAIPEI: A medical research team declared a breakthrough that it says can replace invasive vaccine injections, much loathed by many.

The breakthrough is the development of DNA-based vaccine patches.

The research team leader, Wu Chang-jer, an associate professor at National Taiwan Ocean University, said the DNA-based vaccine patch uses the skin's liposomes to deliver vaccines into the body non-invasively.

"It opens a new pathway in global vaccine applications - in the future, vaccinations against major epidemic diseases could be done via a small patch, instead of injections using needles or via gene guns," Wu said.

Although the cost of producing the DNA-based vaccine patch is about the same as the cost of a regular dose of DNA-based vaccine, the patches are easier to apply, free from the risk of needle contamination and more comfortable for patients, he noted.

The DNA vaccine patches, if approved for use on humans, could be used to deliver vaccines against Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis C, dengue fever and even SARS or A (H1N1) influenza, Wu said.

The research - whose contributors also include Tseng Wen-chi, an associate professor at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, and Lee Tzung-lin, an assistant research fellow at Academia Sinica's Genomics Research Center - was published May 4 in the international periodical Journal of Controlled Release, marking the first research report in the world on DNA-based vaccine patches, Wu noted.

The newly developed patches have been referred to agencies in Taiwan as well as in major countries around the world for patent rights, he went on.

He said the patches will be submitted to the US Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration as a new drug awaiting human trials, but forecast that it will take at least 10 years before the patches can be used on humans.

Wu quoted the Rabobank Group, a global financial services provider specializing in food and agribusiness financing, that the vaccination market is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world.

Global human vaccines commanded a market of $10 billion in 2006, a figure that it is estimated will have ballooned to $30 billion by 2015, Wu quoted the Rabobank as indicating.

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