Researchers create a portable printer capable of producing mRNA vaccine patches.

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A team of international researchers announced on Monday the development of a tabletop device that can produce thumbnail-sized patches for delivering mRNA Covid vaccines to people in remote regions. The device prints microneedle patches, each containing hundreds of tiny needles that administer a vaccine when pressed against the skin.

These patches offer several advantages over traditional jabs, including that they can be self-administered, relatively painless, could be more palatable to the vaccine-hesitant, and can be stored at room temperature for long periods. The researchers tested the printer with Pfizer and Moderna jabs, but it can be adapted to produce whatever vaccines are needed.

Microneedle patch vaccines are already under development for Covid and other diseases, including polio, measles, and rubella. The patches have long struggled to take off because producing them is an expensive, laborious process often involving large machines for centrifugation.

To shrink that process down, the researchers used a vacuum chamber to suck the printer “ink” into the bottom of their patch moulds, so it reaches the points of the tiny needles. The vaccine ink is made up of lipid nanoparticles containing mRNA vaccine molecules, as well as a polymer similar to sugar water. Once allowed to dry, the patches can be stored at room temperature for at least six months.

The researchers said that the printer could potentially print thousands of patches a day with improvements. However, approval and mass production could take years. If successful, the printer could be sent to areas such as refugee camps or remote villages to quickly immunise the local population, in the event of a fresh outbreak of a disease like Ebola.

Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, said that production and access to vaccines could be transformed through such a printer. However, Darrick Carter, a biochemist and CEO of US biotech firm PAI Life Sciences, was less optimistic, stating that micro needle patches have suffered for 30 years because no one has yet been able to scale up manufacturing in a cost-effective way.

SOURCE: Ref-france24

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