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‘Smart patch’ could allow COVID-19 vaccine to be self-administered

A ‘smart patch’ containing the coronavirus vaccine that can be self-administered by patients is being developed by a team at the University of Swansea.

The device, which works in a similar way to a nicotine patch, uses micro needles to break the skin barrier and deliver the vaccine in a less invasive way than traditional injections.

The researchers are working towards delivering the first prototype by the end of March in the hope it can be put forward for clinical trials, with commercial roll-out within three years.

Its millimetre-long micro-needles will be made from polycarbonate or silicon and will be held in place with a strap for up to 24 hours while it delivers the vaccine.

The patch will also be able to measure a patient’s inflammatory response to the vaccination by monitoring biomarkers in the skin. It will then be scanned to provide a data reading allowing doctors to understand its efficacy and the patient’s individual bodily response to it.

The researchers also said it would be easy to distribute and low-cost to manufacture, with scope to expand the work to apply to other infectious diseases in the future.

Project lead Dr Sanjiv Sharma said the quick measuring of the vaccines’ effectiveness “will address an unmet clinical need and would provide an innovative approach to vaccine development”.

He added: “The real-time nature of the platform will mean rapid results allowing faster containment of the Covid-19 virus. This low-cost vaccine administration device will ensure a safe return to work and management of subsequent Covid-19 outbreak waves.

“Beyond the pandemic, the scope of this work could be expanded to apply to other infectious diseases as the nature of the platform allows for quick adaptation to different infectious diseases.

“We are currently getting the platform ready and we hope to do human clinical studies on transdermal delivery with our existing partners at Imperial College London, in preparation for final implementation.”

The project is being funded by the Welsh Government and the EU’s European Regional Development Fund.

Yesterday, The British Society for Immunology warned that a “robust” programme of monitoring is needed to assess the efficacy of the UK government’s Covid-19 immunisation regime, which proposes delaying the second booster jab beyond pharmaceutical recommendations in order to bring the first jab to more people in a shorter timeframe. E&T

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