Designing a More Efficient, Temperature-Proof Vaccine

Vaccines have to be kept at very specific temperatures in order to work effectively. Vaxess is figuring out how to do that–even in remote areas.

By Ben Schiller (Fast Company, March 14, 2017)

If they’re not stored within a narrow temperature range of 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, vaccines become unusable. Millions of doses are lost in the developing world each year for want of better-performing fridges and more storage space. The U.S. is not exempt from these issues: Recently, a doctor in New Jersey was accused of putting 900 kids at risk because he didn’t adhere to required conditions when storing his vaccinations against measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and other diseases.

Several research groups are working on vaccines that don’t need such specific temperature windows, including Vaxess Technologies, in Boston. Founded by Harvard and MIT graduates in 2012, the startup extracts a protein from silk (fibroin) to stabilize vaccines even at very high temperatures (up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit). Once fully developed, the technology could help cut the cost of setting up and monitoring drug-delivery “cold chains,” particularly in last-mile situations where vaccines are most vulnerable to being compromised.

To complement that work, Vaxess is now working on a new vaccine-delivery system: a slow-release skin patch for polio and measles-rubella vaccines. The patches are made up of microneedles, which transfer the vaccines through the dermal layer. “It combines the elimination of the cold chain with this very simple format that is much more compact than a needle or syringe, which is hazardous waste. This could be applied by a lesser-trained health care worker,” Vaxess cofounder Michael Schrader tells Co.Exist.

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