SYDNEY, July 28: Researchers from Australia's University of Queensland (UQ) believe that a new COVID-19 vaccine patch would be more effective against the latest COVID-19 variants compared with traditional injected vaccines.
Published in the Vaccine journal on Thursday, the mice trial found the Hexapro SARS-CoV-2 spike vaccine was 11 times more effective at combating the highly contagious Omicron variant than the same vaccine administered by a needle.
"The high-density microarray patch is a vaccine delivery platform that precisely delivers the vaccine into the layers of the skin which are rich in immune cells," said a research officer from UQ School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences Dr Chris McMillan.
The Hexapro patch was invented by UQ in partnership with Brisbane-based biotech start-up Vaxxas. The patch is administered to the skin and injects the vaccine into the body through thousands of tiny spikes.
Groups of eight mice were administered the Hexapro vaccine either via a traditional needle or the patch technology after which their blood was tested against different samples of COVID-19, including the Alpha, Delta and Omicron sub-variants.
The results showed the patch generated a superior immune response and was more effective at neutralizing both Omicron and Delta variants, said a press release from the university on Thursday.
Fellow researcher, UQ's Dr David Muller, said this gives early evidence that the patch may be able to help against increasingly mutated variants, which are proving more elusive towards current vaccines.
"This decreased effectiveness was highlighted by the Omicron variant, which contains over 30 mutations in the spike protein," said Muller.
Muller added that it was important to remember that existing needle vaccines are still an effective way of combating serious illnesses from the disease.
The technology also has the potential to help extend accessibility to COVID-19 and future vaccines as it can be easily transported and administered, in addition to being able to remain stable at room temperature for up to 30 days.
Vaxxas CEO David Hoey said they were now looking to scale up production as they move into large-scale clinical trials before commercialization.
"This includes the construction of our first manufacturing facility in Brisbane to support the transition to commercializing of our HD-MAP vaccine candidates, including a Hexapro COVID-19 patch."