Merck hooks up with Vaxxas to deliver vaccine pain-free

Merck ($MRK) has hooked up with a delivery startup to look into transdermal delivery for one of its vaccine candidates. The collaboration, between Merck and delivery company Vaxxas, will allow Merck to evaluate, develop and commercialize Vaxxas' Nanopatch transdermal delivery system with an undisclosed vaccine.

Vaxxas will get an upfront fee, research funding, milestone payments and royalties. The company is eligible for additional money if Merck exercises its option to use Nanopatch in two other fields.

Vaxxas' needle-free delivery system originated at the Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland. The patch is made up of many microscopic projections that are dry-coated with vaccine, potentially removing the need for refrigeration and cold chains. These are pain-free and deliver the vaccine into the skin, just below the surface, where there is a large population of immune cells.

In preclinical studies, this triggers an immune response at a much lower dose, even down to one hundredth of the dose delivered with a syringe and needle. With this approach, Nanopatch can deliver new and existing vaccines, potentially with lower doses of adjuvants or in adjuvant-free formulations.

Vaxxas is moving its corporate headquarters from its home in Australia to Cambridge, MA, where the company hopes to find additional partners, new CEO David Hoey told FierceBiotech in an interview. R&D will remain in Queensland.

Started in August 2011, the company was founded with 15 million Australian dollars (then around $16.3 million) in venture capital investment and is backed by a strong group of venture investors including OneVentures, Brandon Capital, Healthcare Ventures, and the Medical Research Commercialization Fund.

- read the press release
- see the article in Genetic Engineering News