World vaccination programmes: how technology could make the aid budget go further
Delivering vaccination programmes to the globe’s poorest communities underpins some of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ambitious goals. In its 2017 Global Vaccine Action Plan, WHO reports on progress, but also on areas for continuing vigilance. Over 19.5 million infants did not receive routine life-saving vaccinations in 2016, and an estimated 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global vaccination coverage improves¹.
A positive example of collective vaccination action is the emergency response to the recent deadly outbreak of diphtheria in the refugee camps of northern Bangladesh². By January 2018, there had been nearly 4000 suspected cases, and 31 deaths caused by the disease with more than half the deaths being of children under the age of five. The global response led by UNICEF and other healthcare partners, will enable nearly half a million vulnerable children to receive the diphtheria tetanus (DT) vaccine within the next few weeks. This is good news; however, the transportation and cold storage of the various liquid vaccines come at a cost – a cost that new innovative medical technologies must seek to eliminate.
According to data analyzed by Pharmaceutical Commerce for its annual Sourcebook, cold-chain logistics spending in 2017 was expected to be more than $13 billion worldwide, in an $80 billion overall pharma logistics market. By 2021, cold-chain biopharma logistics spending will expand to more than $16 billion³. So, the drive to introduce alternative drug delivery solutions for vaccines is gathering pace. Conventional liquid formulations of vaccines and biologics carry stability risks, especially if they aren’t stored at the correct temperature; this is costly, potentially dangerous and a major issue for developing countries. In solid-form, the drug can remain stable for several months without loss of potency.
UK biotech company Nemaura Pharma has spent several years working with private investors to transform the way drugs are delivered through the skin. The company has made significant progress in the reformulation of liquid vaccines administered through the skin using its solid dose delivery system, Micro-Patch™. The device works by depositing the drug under the outer layer of the skin using a metal needle which then retracts completely, minimising the risk of stick injuries. The solid dose delivery device which has been designed for safe patient self-administration, has the potential to improve control over drug release and absorption, improve stability performance, and either partially, or completely, eliminate the cold storage requirements for vaccines and biologics.
Nemaura now has patents secured or pending across multiple patent families. The company came to the attention of global growth strategy analyst Frost & Sullivan in 2016, winning the F&S award for best practices in Enabling Technology Leadership in the Transdermal Drug Delivery Industry for the Micro-Patch delivery device. The work of founder Dr. Faz Chowdhury and his team of 35 scientists and technicians continues to attract interest from leading pharmaceutical companies. If their collaborative efforts bring about the wider adoption of solid-dose vaccine distribution, this will go some way to helping healthcare aid budgets stretch further.