A team at the University of Cambridge and spin-out DIOSynVax has developed a vaccine to protect against SARS-CoV-2. DIOS-CoVax is needle-free vaccine intended to be a booster, and recruitment for further trials in Cambridge is underway.  


The vaccine has been developed by Professor Jonathan Heeney and colleagues. It presents a needle-free administration solution, with a blast of air delivering the solution into the skin. So far it has been part of safety trials conducted at the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility, but recruitment is now expanding to Cambridge. Professor Heeney is “excited” to be “bringing our vaccine ‘home’”. He is looking to recruit healthy volunteers to contribute to the “crucial stage of development” in “what we hope will eventually become a universal coronavirus vaccine”.  

“Our vaccine is innovative, both in terms of how it aims to protect against the virus…but also in how it is delivered. If you’re someone who hates needles, our vaccine could be the answer as it’s delivered by a jet of air, not a needle.” 

The pain-free administration uses PharmaJet’s Tropis system, which delivers the vaccine in less than a tenth of a second. 

How does it work? 

The virus is a constantly mutating problem. To tackle this, the team has used predictive methods to encode antigens that give more extensive protection. In 2021 Professor Heeney stated that the vaccine targets elements of the structure that are common to “all known ‘beta-coronaviruses’ – those coronaviruses that are the greatest disease threats”.  

The trials 

So far, the trials have taken place in Southampton, with Clinical Chief Investigator Professor Saul Faust commenting that the “people of Southampton and Hampshire have stepped up time and again”. Professor Faust believes that this is a “potentially game-changing vaccine”. 

“This technology could give wide-ranging protection to huge numbers of people worldwide.”  

The team hopes that, depending on successful clinical trials, the vaccine can be scaled up and manufactured as a powder. The Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is seeking healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 50 to participate. The trial will last around a year, with 11 visits, for which participants will be compensated.