Vaxxas scores $20M to develop needle-free vaccines

Vaxxas' nanopatch needle-free delivery system--Courtesy of Vaxxas

If vaccines could be administered without needles, would they be available to more people? Vaxxas is one step closer to finding out. Vaxxas announced Monday that it raised $20 million in a Series B round, which will be used to advance a series of clinical programs and to develop a pipeline of new vaccine products using the company's needle-free Nanopatch platform.

"As we have advanced the development of our Nanopatch needle-free vaccination technology, we have seen tremendous opportunities to create our own proprietary pipeline of Nanopatch-based vaccine products as well as those with partners," said David Hoey, president and CEO of Vaxxas, in a release.

In preclinical studies, Nanopatch was found to confer the same protection as traditional vaccine, but at 1/100th of the dose, said Vaxxas in a release. The platform uses an ultrahigh density of projections--microneedles too small to be seen with the naked eye--that are dry-coated with vaccine. Application to the skin is painless. According to the release, it works by causing an immune response in the "abundant immunological cells immediately below the surface of the skin."

Cambridge, MA-based Vaxxas highlighted influenza, polio, bacterial infections and cancer as areas in which it plans to apply its technology. The Nanopatch was pioneered by Mark Kendall's research group at the Australian Institute of Bioengineering & Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

Vaccines delivered using Nanopatch have a large market potential, and could challenge their needle-and-syringe counterparts. Nanopatch doses should be much smaller, and the dry vaccines will not need refrigeration during storage and transportation.

In 2012, Vaxxas teamed up with Merck ($MRK) to develop the Nanopatch platform, allowing Merck to evaluate, develop and commercialize Nanopatch with an undisclosed vaccine.

- here's the release
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