Nanopatch™ technology developed by Professor Mark Kendall could have a global impact by improving vaccines so they no longer have to be administered by needle and syringe.

The technology reduces the dose required to achieve immunity by targeting the skin’s immune system, rather than requiring injection into a muscle, and removes the need for refrigeration.

When Professor Mark Kendall came to the University of Queensland (UQ) in 2006 as a Queensland Smart State Senior Fellow, he brought with him knowledge gained during many years working at the University of Oxford in the UK to develop a biolistic particle “gene gun” for gene and drug delivery, working with PowderJect which was then acquired by Novartis and Pfizer.

The Nanopatch™

After moving to UQ, the focus of Professor Kendall’s work shifted to develop a next-generation delivery platform to target vaccines to the abundant immune cells immediately below the surface of the skin.

The underlying platform of this technology was the Nanopatch™, a 1cm square patch made up of thousands of vaccine-coated microprojections.

While the projections are invisible to the naked eye, they are long enough to breach the outer skin layer and reach the next layer of skin, which is rich in immune cells.

The projections are short enough to avoid the the deeper nerve cells in the skin that feel pain.

This innovative technology is in stark contrast to traditional vaccine delivery using needles injected into muscle, where there are fewer immune cells.

The Nanopatch™ delivers the vaccine more effectively and directly to the site of the immune cells, requiring less vaccine for the same immune response.

Unlike traditional vaccines, the Nanopatch™ is dry coated and does not require refrigeration. This makes it cheaper and easier to transport and store, particularly in developing countries.

There is less risk of needle-stick injury to health workers and being pain-free, the Nanopatch™ is ideal for children and people with needle phobias.

Commercialisation

The potential of this exciting technology was immediately recognised by UQ’s technology transfer company UniQuest.

UniQuest prepared, lodged and filed six patent applications to protect this groundbreaking work as Professor Kendall and his team at UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology continued to develop the technology in 2007 and 2008.

UniQuest helped to drive the commercialisation process by coordinating more than 45 presentations between 2008 and 2010, to both industry groups and potential investors around the world.

By early 2009, Professor Kendall’s Nanopatch™ was already receiving strong interest from large pharmaceutical companies keen to use the technology with their vaccines.

An Australian Record Investment

UniQuest was able to secure funding and establish the startup company Vaxxas Pty Ltd to develop the technology for the market in 2011.

UniQuest’s technology transfer experts brought together a syndicate of investors, including OneVentures, Brandon Capital Partners, HealthCare Ventures (based in Boston USA) and the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund, to secure an investment of $15 million in equity financing to advance the Nanopatch™ towards human clinical testing and product development.

This was Australia’s second biggest first round investment in a university startup company.

Expansion

In 2012, Vaxxas announced a research collaboration with Merck & Co., Inc. with an option to license the technology for the commercial production of up to three of its vaccines.

Separately, Vaxxas established a commercialisation office in Boston, US, to facilitate access to global pharmaceutical partners and complement the company’s research and development operations based in Brisbane, Queensland.

In 2015, Vaxxas raised an additional A$25 million in Series B funding from new and existing investors to advance a series of clinical programs to develp a pipeline of new vaccine products for major diseases.

Accolades for Vaxxas

Vaxxas received the 2012 Janssen AusBiotech Emerging Company of the Year Award.

Professor Mark Kendall is one of only five global recipients of a prestigious Rolex Laureate in 2012, which recognises pioneering efforts to expand knowledge and improve human life.

Vaxxas was judged the Best Venture Capital Investment at the 2012 World Vaccine Congress in Washington and was named among the 2012 BRW 10 best startups.

In 2014, Vaxxas was named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum, and secured funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to develop the Nanopatch to improve polio vaccines.

That same year, Vaxxas announced funding from the WHO to use the Nanopatch™ platform to develop a polio vaccine.

impact-sector-icon

Sector

Health and Science

impact-inventor

Innovator

Professor Mark Kendall

Impact-overview

Overview

A needle-free, pain-free vaccine delivery system that requires less dose for immunity.

impact-commercialisation-icon

Commercialisation

Licensed IP
Patent Application