A consortium of British private companies and a university facility has been awarded $2.6m (€2.13m) by the UK's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to produce a slow release vaccine which will eliminate the need for booster doses, improving compliance and slashing the cost of vaccination.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 200m of booster doses are needed each year, for diseases such as tetanus, pertussis and polio, and since the average cost per dose, including transport cold chain and staffing, is $5, the potential for annual saving worldwide reaches $1bn.
It all depends on whether researchers can make a vaccine whose dose is released gradually, stimulating the body's immune system over a longer time and allowing full protection to be achieved with a single injection.
Medical technology firm Cambridge Biostability, which leads the project, believes it knows how to achieve this using nanotechnology and is confident it can have such a vaccine in the market in just five years.
They stabilise the vaccine by embedding it in tiny microspheres, made of calcium phosphate glass, which dissolve in the body fluids after injection.
Proprietary nanoparticles within the microsphere ensure the vaccine release will be slower and the vaccine continues to be released into the body over a longer time period.
What is more, Cambridge Biostability's stable liquid vaccines can be stored safely without the need for a cold chain and do not require reconstitution or bactericides, which are major causes of vaccine safety and wastage problems.
Howard Smith, the company's technical and commercial manager, told In-PharmaTechnologist.com it is too early to estimate the vaccine's manufacturing costs but believes it will certainly make an attractive commercial proposition.
"First we need to investigate the formulation along with MNLpharma, which provides adjuvants that boost the immune response, and the Multi-Imaging Centre at the University of Cambridge, which can help us analyse the nanostructures."
"Then it is a matter of scaling it up and clinical trials will run in parallel, we already know it works well with tetanus toxoid and we need to see how it fares with other vaccines such as for Hepatitis B."
MNLpharma's role in the project will be to develop an imino sugar adjuvant to enhance the immune response to the controlled release vaccines, making this the first time the technology has been applied to vaccines.
The Multi-Imaging Centre, on the other hand, brings to the consortium specialist knowledge of nanoparticle analysis and the high level skills in developing the new investigative techniques that will be needed to clearly understand the mechanism of controlled release.
The WHO recommends a minimum of 18 different injections to give protection for 7 childhood diseases, so if such 'one-off vaccines' materialise, they will have a huge impact on the pharmaceutical industry.