British Scientists Develop New Vaccine Technology
Tue October 19, 2004 09:30 AM ET
By Patricia Reaney
LONDON (Reuters) - British scientists have taken tips from Mother Nature to develop a new technology that could deliver cheaper, life-saving vaccines without refrigeration to millions of children in remote areas of the world.
About two million youngsters die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles. Each year up to 50 percent of vaccines are ruined because of temperature damage.
The stable-liquid vaccine technology devised by researchers at Cambridge Biostability Ltd (CBL) eliminates the need for costly refrigeration.
"It could revolutionize how we deliver vaccines in the developing world," said Dr Stewart Tyson, of Britain's Department for International Development which will provide 950,000 pounds ($1.7 million) for the project.
"This technology offers the potential to deliver vaccines outside the cold chain," he told reporters.
Vaccines need to be refrigerated all the time to keep them potent. The cold chain adds an estimated cost of $200-$300 million each year, according to the World Health Organization.
Removing the cold chain alone would enable the vaccination of an extra 10 million children within existing budgets.
NATURAL PLANT PROCESS
The new technology involves drying the vaccine molecules and embedding them in tiny sugar beads or glass spheres. Each sphere is inert and absolutely stable without the need for refrigeration.
The process is based on a natural process that enables some plants to remain in a desiccated state for hundreds of years and then return to life.
"Our technology is stolen from Nature," said Dr Bruce Roser, the chief scientist of CBL.
The spheres are suspended in stable, injectable liquids and will not release the vaccines until they are dissolved in the body following injection.
Public health experts estimate that almost one third of the 132 million children born each year are not reached by routine vaccination.
CBL, which has tested the technology in animal trials, said it also offers the possibility of slow-release vaccines, which could eliminate the need for boosters.
It will collaborate on a multiple vaccine against five of the most virulent childhood diseases that will be manufactured by Panacea Biotec, a leading Indian biotechnology company.
It also plans to license the technology to vaccine companies. In addition to childhood vaccinations, Roser said the system could be useful for the military and emergency response teams to store vaccines so they are prepared for outbreaks of disease.
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