While we were in Barcelona this year for the World Vaccine Congress 2022 we had the exciting opportunity to meet Dr Erin Spiegel, Vice President of Clinical and Regulatory affairs at PharmaJet. We have previously encountered PharmaJet’s technology in efforts against Polio, so it was fantastic to learn a bit more about the potential it offers. Dr Spiegel’s session at the Congress explored some of the challenges (and solutions) associated with nucleic acid vaccine delivery. We are grateful that she was able to make time to speak to us!
We began by asking Dr Spiegel a little bit about herself and PharmaJet for anyone who might not know what they are working on. As VP of Clinical and Regulatory affairs she brings a wealth of scientific and regulatory experience to the role. She told us that PharmaJet’s needle-free devices are “used pretty widely” but are most effective for “nucleic acid based vaccines”.
Needle-free technology sounds like an exciting prospect, and we asked Dr Spiegel about its potential applications. As a “geneticist by training” she is most excited about the “impact” that it can have on “DNA based vaccines in particular”. She tells us that “historically, DNA based vaccines and therapeutics, and gene therapies even have needed a vehicle or delivery device system”. However, PharmaJet is hoping to sidestep this, avoiding the need for electricity, for example. Furthermore, handheld devices can be used in more “remote locations” for a “much bigger” reach.
Addressing vaccine hesitancy
Another potential benefit to needle-free technology is the potential to address genuine vaccine fears. These contribute to vaccine hesitancy. For Dr Spiegel, the “intradermal platform” creates a “basically pain free” process. On top of this, it provides a work around the fear of needles, leaving “not a lot to be afraid of”. Finally, the “small handheld device” is unthreatening, and will have benefits for vaccinating children in particular.
One of the most pressing challenges that faces the whole vaccine industry is sustainability. As innovation is clearly part of the process for PharmaJet, we wanted to learn how this factors in. Dr Spiegel told us that they consider themselves to be operating in a “pretty sustainable” fashion. Working in two different countries, or continents even, they have established “high throughput manufacturing” of the systems. The injectors themselves are “reusable through 20,000 injections”. This is far better than single-use solutions!
For a company like PharmaJet, things are moving quickly, and as many of us have recently become aware, the vaccine space is responding to frequently developing scientific knowledge with amazing technology. We asked Dr Spiegel what recent advances have shaped her work. She identifies advances in both DNA and RNA based technologies. As we saw in COVID, the RNA is moving quickly, but she suggests DNA is not far behind.
For example, “modifications” can be made to plasmids, and the DNA itself. In some instances, the “bacterial origins of replication” can be eliminated. The effects of these advances are great both for the “cold chain portion of delivery” but also the “cost of manufacturing”. Thus, the overall vaccine product can become “much more accessible”.
As always we love to know what brings our amazing scientist and industry representative to us. For Dr Spiegel, the panel discussion was the big draw. It was an opportunity to discuss some of the ideas she explored in this interview, such as advancing DNA based vaccines, and taking things to the “next stage”. She seemed particularly enthused about working with colleagues to get vaccines to people, particularly children, in “every remote location” with “not much trouble”.
It was a privilege to speak to Dr Spiegel at this year’s event. We look forward to hearing from PharmaJet again in April next year at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington. Get your tickets now to join us there!