In January 2023 CEPI announced that it would provide up to $4.3 million (AUD6.4 million) to Vaxxas, to advance development of its high-density microarray patch (HD-MAP) for mRNA vaccines. This vaccine-delivery platform could improve access to mRNA vaccines by removing the need for frozen storage. This would promote easier distribution and safer and more accurate dosing.  

As we explored in a previous post on EnsiliTech’s technology, the global dependence on fridge and freezer facilities is an access issue and often results in unnecessary waste. This partnership agreement will contribute to preclinical testing of Vaxxas’ platform to “assess its stability, safety, and immunogenicity”. Furthermore, it will evaluate its potential as a “rapid-response technology for heat-stable, dried-formulation mRNA vaccines”.  

Needle-free opportunities 

In a previous post on Vaxxas’ technology, we explored how the HD-MAP comprises thousands of microscopic points on a patch. Each of these delivers a tiny dose of vaccine when applied to the skin, targeting the “abundant immune cells immediately below the skin surface”. CEPI identifies “many potential advantages” to this novel administration technique.  

The dried form of the vaccine is “more stable at higher temperatures” than liquid alternatives. The patch is also “easier to administer” and more acceptable to more people. CEPI suggests that in the future, vaccine patches could be “mailed directly” to homes, workplaces, or schools, which would greatly accelerate the scheduling and administration timeline of conventional needle-and-syringe approaches. 

CEPI’s goals 

This project is part of CEPI’s ambition to improving the thermostability of and access to a variety of new vaccine platforms. Both organisations are “committed to enabling global equitable access to the vaccines they develop”. Under the terms of the funding agreement, Vaxxas is committed to prioritising supply for low- and middle-income countries, producing volumes that meet public health needs, setting affordable prices, and potentially transferring technology to LMIC manufacturers.  

Jane Halton, CEPI’s Chair, emphasised how COVID-19 demonstrated the importance of equitable access to vaccines in the “heart of any effective pandemic response”.  

“Combining Vaxxas’ vaccine-patch technology with the speed and effectiveness of mRNA vaccines could produce a tool that is not only suited as a rapid-response platform for use against unknown pathogens but could also serve as an additional means to get life-saving vaccines to the most vulnerable populations”.  

Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, agrees, suggesting that “one of the major challenges” of the COVID-19 pandemic was “the need to store [mRNA vaccines] at very low temperatures”. Eliminating the need for frozen storage facilitates “easier distribution and safe delivery”. 

“These qualities make this technology particularly promising as a platform for rapid delivery of vaccines in an outbreak situation, particularly in harder to reach regions.” 

David Hoey is Vaxxas’ CEO and described the funding as a “great honour”, which “validates the benefits” of their technology. He hopes that the collaboration will provide opportunities to get “life-saving vaccines” to the “most vulnerable populations”.  

We will hear more from Vaxxas at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington this April. To join us, get your tickets here.