Queensland-made vaccine patch Vaxxas proves effective against Omicron variant

Queensland-made vaccine patch Vaxxas proves effective against Omicron variant

Dr Christopher McMillan (left) and Dr David Muller in the lab.


 

A successful trial undertaken by the University of Queensland (UQ) has found that a locally-made vaccine patch can successfully neutralise all of the variants of the COVID-19 virus tested by researchers.

After trialling its high-density microarray patch (HD-MAP) technology on mice, Brisbane-based biotech Vaxxas is now poised for Phase I human trials of its vaccine patch which has proven to be 11 times more effective in combatting the Omicron variant than traditional needle injections.

According to Vaxxas CEO David Hoey, the success of the project could hail a new era of needle-free vaccinations to deal with future pandemics and other common human ailments.

Vaxxas, established in 2011 by University of Queensland’s commercialisation arm UniQuest, has just finished an extensive study of the HexaPro vaccine delivered by its patch technology.

The animal trials, led by UQ’s Dr Christopher McMillan and Dr David Muller, revealed that the patch was considerably more effective in neutralising COVID-19 variants than traditional needle vaccination delivery.


Related: Needle-free vaccine developer Vaxxas aims to shake up centuries-old immunisation methods


The study, funded by an Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship awarded to Muller, not only highlighted the effectiveness of HD-MAP vaccine delivery but revealed its potential to provide protection from emerging viral variants.

Muller says the patch was tested against the original ancestral COVID-19 virus and against all strains including the early Omicron variants.

“We were able to maintain that broad neutralising antibody response against all of them,” he tells Business News Australia.

The HexaPro vaccine delivered in the trials was developed by Jason McLellan at the University of Texas. While the mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna have two prolines, HexaPro has six prolines which Muller says offer greater stability to the vaccine.

HexaPro might be considered the hero of the latest tests, but Muller says it’s a combination of the two that boosts the vaccine’s efficacy.

“HexaPro is a remarkably stable antigen that makes it a good vaccine candidate,” he says.

“We thought it would couple well based on the attributes of the patch and it’s turning out very well. The patch has the added ability to initiate really potent anti-body responses.

“Most people don’t realise that your skin is the barrier to the outside world. That’s where a lot of the first insults come and in the layers of your skin, just underneath the surface, there’s a large density of immune cells waiting for that.

“We’re taking advantage of this with the patch. Traditionally needles go way deeper into the muscles where there are not many immune cells, so we’re putting the vaccine exactly where the immune cells are. It’s a very targeted delivery.”

Muller says the patches are not only more effective against emerging variants but are far easier to administer than needle-based vaccines.

Vaxxas is now gearing up to conduct Phase 1 clinical trials of the patch technology later this year.

“We are continuing to scale-up our manufacturing capabilities and accelerate product development in preparation for large-scale clinical trials,” says Hoey.

“This includes construction of our first manufacturing facility in Brisbane to support the transition to commercialising of our HD-MAP vaccine candidates, including a HexaPro COVID-19 patch.”

Vaxxas is separately undertaking studies with vaccines to treat a number of common ailments such as measles and seasonal influenza through its patch delivery system.

The promising trial results come amid the latest wave of COVID-19 infections in Australia, which has to-date recorded 11,512 deaths in total from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

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