Swansea University KESS 2 project develops ‘world’s first’ Covid-19 vaccine smart patch

A KESS 2 funded project at Swansea University has joined the fight against coronavirus by steering their research towards the development of a ‘smart patch’ for the administration of a vaccine.

Olivia Howells’ research was already working on the development and application of microneedles in collaboration with company partners BIOMEMS Technology Ltd, a project which saw her win the Research Image Award at the KESS 2 Annual Event in 2017. Olivia says:

“It’s incredibly exciting to see the microneedles I’ve developed as part of my PhD are being brought to life so quickly. KESS 2 funding and support was essential to facilitate my project research and to help accelerate the microneedle development quickly to establish a prototype. The pandemic demonstrates how these microneedles can be used quite readily as real-world applications providing a cost-effective solution which can help so many people across the world.”

The disposable device uses micro-needles to both administer the vaccine and monitor its efficacy by measuring the body’s immune response. A prototype will be developed by the end of March in the hope it can be put forward for clinical trials.

Olivia states the device could benefit people who are scared of needles and injections. She says,

“Transdermal delivery using a hypodermic needle is the routine technique used to administer vaccines. It offers several advantages such as rapid, low cost administration that avoids first pass metabolism. However, deep penetration through the skin, fat and muscle, stimulates pain, fear and reduces vaccine efficacy.

Microneedles being only thousandths of a millimetre in length utilise the depth of the skin by only penetrating the outer layer, this allows a dose-sparing, direct immune response required for vaccination. They also by-pass nerve stimulation, becoming pain free, and do not require extensive training to administer.”

Olivia’s project has been covered in interviews by the BBC and Heart Radio, you can read more in this article on BBC Wales: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-55548670