Merck & Co. and vaccine delivery specialist Vaxxas started a research collaboration focused on evaluating the use of the latter’s transdermal Nanopatch™ vaccine delivery system with a Merck vaccine candidate. Under terms of the deal Australian firm Vaxxas will receive an up-front fee, research funding, and option fees if Merck exercises its option to the platform for the development and commercialization of vaccine candidates for up to two additional fields. Vaxxas will also be eligible for development and regulatory milestone payments.

Vaxxas’ Nanopatch™ vaccine delivery technology consists of a 1 cm2 silicone array that carries about 20,000 vaccine-coated microprojections that painlessly perforate the outer layers of the skin when applied with the associated applicator device, and deliver the vaccine directly to key immune cells immediately below the skin surface. The firm believes the system can significantly enhance the therapeutic potential of both existing and new vaccine candidates by amplifying efficacy, reducing the required dose, and obviating the need for adjuvants, as well as preventing needlestick injuries and cross-contamination. Preclinical in vivo studies showed that use of Nanopatch allowed a 100-fold reduction in the required dose of Fluvax® influenza vaccine.

The applicator device used with the Nanopatch array has in addition been designed to achieve uniform penetration and delivery across the range of natural variations in skin structure associated with age, gender, and health, and overcome the inconsistencies associated with other transdermal vaccine delivery approaches, Vaxxas claims.

Founded in August 2011 with a Aus$15 million venture capital investment (about $15.3 million at today’s exchange rate), Vaxxas’ platform was originally developed by researchers at UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

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