Last reviewed 22 April 2021

Researchers at Swansea University are developing the world’s first smart vaccine device that will both deliver the Covid-19 vaccine and measure its efficacy through monitoring the body’s associated response.

The aim of the Institute for Innovative Materials, Processing and Numerical Technologies (IMPACT) is to produce the vaccine through the use of microneedles (MNs) to create a “smart-patch”.

This device will simultaneously measure a patient’s inflammatory response to the vaccination by monitoring biomarkers in the skin.

As the name suggests, microneedles are tiny (measured in millionths of a metre) and are designed to break the skin barrier and deliver medicines in a minimally invasive manner.

A classic example is the nicotine patch that delivers nicotine through skin to help people give up smoking.

Project lead Dr Sanjiv Sharma said: “Measuring vaccine efficacy is extremely important as it indicates the protective effects of vaccination on an individual via the level of reduction of infection risk in a vaccinated person relative to that of a susceptible, unvaccinated individual.”

This measure of vaccination effectiveness will address an unmet clinical need and provide an innovative approach to vaccine development, he explained.

Skin vaccination using MNs has been described as a superior immunisation approach due to its potential to overcome immune tolerance observed in pregnancy, and lower vaccination costs through antigen dose-sparing.

The new method would change the way in which vaccine efficacy trials are performed from a statistical assessment to a scientific measurement of patient inflammatory response to vaccination.

A team led by Professor Nikolaj Gadegaard of the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering have developed an injection-moulding process to enable large-scale production of the microneedle smart patches.