One of the tricky issues involved in vaccinating the public from a highly communicable disease is the “public” part. How do you quickly administer the vaccine to people without increasing the risk of rapidly spreading the illness in question? Well, the geniuses at the Iomai Company have devised a technology that would enable vaccines to be mailed to the masses and self administered.
From the Washington Post:
Executives at Iomai Corp. see the future of flu vaccinations like this: A small patch containing the vaccine, along with stimulants to make it more potent, is mailed to patients who stick the patch to their arms for a few hours, then toss it in the trash.
It is a far off but potentially paradigm-shifting approach to vaccination, and last week federal health officials gave their strongest indication yet that Iomai’s patch technology has broad public-health possibilities. To stretch the vaccine supply for pandemic flu should an outbreak occur, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded the Gaithersburg company, founded in 1997, a contract worth as much as $128 million to develop both the patch and the immune-system stimulant it contains.
Company’s transcutaneous immunization (TCI) technology explained:
In 1998, Dr. Gregory Glenn, published a paper in the journal Nature, detailing how he and a team from Walter Reed Army Institute of Research were able to stimulate an impressive immune response in mice using transcutaneous immunization (TCI) technology.
TCI delivers vaccine or immune stimulating adjuvants to a group of cells in the skin called Langerhans cells that are a part of the immune system and have been shown to produce a robust immune response. In his conclusion, Dr. Glenn predicted that the work “may ultimately lead to the development of simple and safe needle-free vaccines…”
TCI effectively stimulates the body’s immune system to bring about the immune response required for protection against disease. Potent immune stimulants (adjuvants) are delivered at the surface of the skin to the Langerhans cells, a major component of the immune system. The Langerhans cells, activated by the presence of these immune stimulants, take in the vaccine antigen and migrate to the regional draining lymph nodes. There, presentation to the immune system occurs, eliciting a robust immune response.
Compared to standard immunization via needles, two important features of TCI pave the way for more effective vaccines:
TCI follows the natural pathway for protection by targeting the immune-rich epidermis, which is replete with Langerhans cells. Because there is no systemic exposure, strong immune stimulants can be used safely on the skin, stimulating a powerful immune response.