Influenza is one of the world’s major health problems; a viral infection that spreads easily from person to person, and can even lead to death in high-risk populations. For years, scientists have worked tirelessly to develop vaccines against it, but these have not been without their disadvantages. The current immunisation, which comes in liquid form, has several problems associated with it – most notably its reliance on a costly infrastructure for transport.
Canadian science organisation, Ingenuity Lab, has worked on a remarkable oral influenza vaccine to solve the problems associated with previous versions. Ingenuity Lab, which is run by Dr Carlo Montemagno and specialises in nanotechnology – among other scientific areas – has developed smart microcapsules. This technology can be administered orally, without relying on needles or the presence of hospital staff. What makes the microcapsules particularly impressive is their ability to respond to pH changes in the intestine, where the contents of each drug are released when they reach the right conditions.
Since the technology is relatively new, Ingenuity Lab has gone to extraordinary efforts to demonstrate its proof-of-concept settings and has performed various stages of testing. Results from initial research have recently been published in Nature, co-authored by Montemagno, Dr Hyo-Jick Choi and Ankit Kumar. The team is now focused on in vivo mice studies before it can apply the system on humans.
In the future, Ingenuity Lab hopes that the technology will greatly improve the efficiency and methods in which influenza vaccines can be administered. For example, the prototype can even be combined with food, opening new opportunities for different industries to collaborate. The solid vaccine is also designed so that it can be stored more easily, without refrigeration.
Ultimately, this new technology will greatly speed up the way in which tablets can be administered around the world, helping to better the global vaccination strategy to influenza.
Speaking about the technology, Montemagno said: “Thanks to Ingenuity Lab, the vaccinations of the future will be more efficient, safer and much more accessible to those who need them most. Our innovative oral vaccines will be a revolutionary health breakthrough for populations around the globe and I have no doubt that these discoveries truly will be life changing.”