Oxford makes Bill Gates happy with stable vaccine process

Nova Laboratories Ltd. and Oxford University are trumpeting a new method to make vaccines shelf-stable, essential if they're to become commonplace in tropical climates.

Vaccine man Bill Gates is probably smiling today.

Nova Laboratories Ltd. and Oxford University today are trumpeting a new method to make vaccines shelf-stable, essential if they're to become commonplace in tropical climates. (Picture from Oxford.)

The paper on the method was approved last month and is online at the Science Translational Journal.

The Hypodermic Rehydration Injection System (HydRIS) starts by mixing live vaccine with two sugars -- simple sucrose and trehalose, which is often used to stabilize processed foods. This is dripped onto a membrane of glass fibers, then dried in low-humidity, at room temperature.

The process lets the sugars form a noncrystalline solid around the membrane, and thus around the vaccine. This prevents contamination -- vaccines can be stored at body temperature and higher for months, in other words in tropical heat. Releasing the vaccine is as simple as flushing it with salt water, simple saline.

Nova, which holds the patent on the process, has also developed a cartridge that allows the vaccine to be rehydrated and injected at the same time, without exposing it to the air. The company also has aseptic manufacturing technology, and enough capacity to produce vaccine for clinical trials.

This is a very big deal. Principal investigator Adrian Hill explained:

The World Health Organization's immunisation program vaccinates nearly 80% of the children born today against six killer diseases: polio, diphtheria, tuberculosis, whooping cough, measles and tetanus. One of the biggest costs is maintaining what's called the cold chain -- making sure vaccines are refrigerated all the way from the manufacturer to the child, whether they are in the Western world or the remotest village in Africa. If most or all of the vaccines could be stabilized at high temperatures, it would not only remove cost, more children would be vaccinated.

The work was funded by Britain's Wellcome Trust.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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