Despite, or because of, economic difficulties and meager pipelines, the recent past has seen many drug companies investigate alternative delivery methods for new and established products. A new deal between GlaxoSmithKline (GSK, London) and Intercell (Vienna) reflects this trend and raises hopes for the development of innovative routes of administration.
The two companies will work to bring needle-free vaccines, based on Intercell’s technology, to market. Intercell’s Vaccine Patch is a transcutaneous method of delivering adjuvant and antigen directly to the immune system. The adjuvant passes through the skin’s stratum corneum and activates cells of the immune system to take up the antigen and bring it to the lymph nodes. The Vaccine Patch contains the enterotoxin from Escherichia coli, an adjuvant and a powerful stimulator of the immune system. The companies believe that the technology could make vaccinations easier and more efficient.
The companies also hope to use Intercell’s technology to improve patients’ immune response to existing injected pandemic influenza vaccines. Intercell is developing a Vaccine Enhancement Patch that, in studies, has resulted in a seroconversion rate (i.e., the concentration of antibodies) of 70% after a single dose of vaccine. The companies say that the patch could expand vaccine supplies by allowing fewer or lower doses of vaccine.
If the technology proves sound, the GSK–Intercell agreement could change the way vaccines are delivered in the future. The Vaccine Patch could open the door to the development of vaccines that can’t safely be administered through injection, and it could certainly boost compliance among needlephobics. The deal may be a sign that a wider array of biologicals will soon be available for transcutaneous delivery.