BARDA, in 'Beyond the Needle' DRIVe, backs IDRI to develop nasal RNA vaccine against pandemic flu

The Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) has secured U.S. government support for its nasal RNA vaccine project. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) is putting up the money, positioning the nonprofit IDRI to use a nanostructured lipid carrier delivery system to deliver self-amplifying RNA via the nose.

As the current pandemic is showing, the cold chain storage requirements of RNA vaccines and the use of needles for administration are barriers to vaccination campaigns around the world. IDRI wants to solve both problems with a nasal formulation that is better suited to supply chains in low- and middle-income countries than current RNA vaccines and alleviates the fears of needle-hesitant individuals.

Backed by BARDA’s DRIVe, an acronym for Division of Research, Innovation and Ventures, IDRI is using H5N1 influenza as an initial proof-of-concept target. The potential for H5N1, a “bird flu” strain, to mutate and transmit between humans has led governments to stockpile vaccines that could offer protection against a potential pandemic form of the virus.  

While the FDA has approved H5N1 vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, IDRI and BARDA see an opportunity to improve on current options and, in doing so, lay the groundwork for the development of intranasal products against other pathogens. Emily Voigt, Ph.D., senior manager of the RNA program, made the case for nasal delivery.

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“Intranasal administration of RNA vaccines may offer improved protection against respiratory pathogens—as well as easier administration and potentially higher uptake rates—relative to injected vaccines. Potent vaccines combined with ease of administration, even by non-trained medical staff, and increased stability means we can more quickly reach more people and offer the protection needed from respiratory viruses, regardless of where you live,” Voigt said in a statement.

The DRIVe funding amounts to $748,885, with the cost-share requirement adding a further $268,853.