The technology, developed by Israeli company NanoPass Technologies, is based on tiny pyramid-shaped 'micro needles' made out of silicon and with a central bore hole that is large enough to allow the passage of large molecules.
The so-called MicroPyramid needles can be formed into arrays and used to deliver just about any active ingredient, including antigens for vaccination. The array is pressed against the skin and, because the gauge of the microneedles is so tiny, the patient feels nothing.
NanoPass said the agreement with GSK's Biopharmaceutical Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery will focus on optimising the MicroPyramid platform for vaccine delivery.
Conventional needles are too large to deliver vaccines effectively into the epidermis layer of the skin, according to the Israeli firm, while transdermal patch or chemical technologies are incapable of efficiently delivering large molecules.
NanoPass' founder Shuki Yeshurun said: "There is potential that this technology may lower the amount of antigen required to provide the same immune response, or potentially improve the protection rate by stimulating multiple immune pathways."
The company has already demonstrated the feasibility of its method in animal models, effectively delivering insulin and diclofenac, a drug used for relief of arthritis.