A University of Queensland startup company is set to revolutionise vaccine delivery through its innovative High-Density Microarray Patch (HD-MAP).

Vaxxas Pty Ltd is developing the HD-MAP – a one-centimetre square patch with a surface of thousands of microprojections, just a quarter of a millimetre long, which are dry-coated in vaccine. When applied to the skin for a few seconds, the microprojections penetrate and directly deposit the vaccine within the dense population of key immune cells beneath the outer skin layer. The microprojections alert the immune system but are short enough to avoid the deeper nerve cells in the skin that register pain.

The Research

Research on a vaccine delivery patch began at The University of Queensland with the arrival of Professor Mark Kendall in 2006. Professor Kendall brought knowledge gained in his past research at the University of Oxford, which focussed on a vaccine delivery platform to directly target the abundant immune cells located immediately below the surface of the skin.

Professor Kendall and his team at UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology continued to work on this technology through 2007 and 2008. UniQuest, UQ’s technology transfer company, prepared, lodged and filed six patent applications to protect this ground-breaking work.


The HD-MAP’s innovative technology is in contrast to traditional vaccine delivery using needles injected into muscle, which has few immune cells. Recent clinical trials showed that vaccine delivered through the HD-MAP can produce six times the response from antibodies in a much shorter timeframe, compared to the same amount of vaccine delivered into the muscle via needle and syringe.
Other advantages of the HD-MAP include:

  • the elimination of cold chain vaccine storage due to the vaccine’s dry-coated microprojections. The patch is cheaper and easier to transport and store, especially in developing countries.
  • Removing the risk of needle stick injuries to health workers and eliminating any associated needle-stick pain and fear; ideal for children and people who have needle phobias.
  • Greater immunological response than an injected vaccine.
  • Future home-delivered vaccinations, allowing families to self-administer in future pandemic situations where quarantine and isolation are paramount.

The path to commercialisation

With the global potential of this technology becoming clear, UniQuest helped to drive the commercialisation process by coordinating over 45 presentations between 2008 and 2010, targeting both industry groups and potential investors around the world. As early as 2009, the technology was receiving strong interest from global pharmaceutical companies.

UniQuest secured funding and, in 2011, established startup company Vaxxas Pty Ltd to develop the technology towards the market.

UniQuest brought together a syndicate of investors – OneVentures, Brandon Capital Partners, HealthCare Ventures (based in Boston USA) and the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund – and managed the due diligence necessary for the company to secure an investment of $15 million in equity financing to advance the patch towards human clinical testing and product development. This was Australia’s second largest first round investment in a university startup company.

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

Global partnerships

In February 2015, the company secured equity funding of $25 million from new and existing investors to advance a series of clinical programs and develop a pipeline of new vaccine products for major diseases using the micro patch platform.

In May 2020, Merck announced an investment of US$12 million ($18 million) in Vaxxas in a combination of equity funding and option fees to manufacture an (as yet) undisclosed vaccine. To date, Vaxxas has raised more than $66 million in equity funding.

In June the same year, an alliance was announced with German sterile manufacturing company Harro Höfliger to develop the world’s first high-throughput, aseptic manufacturing line for production of vaccine products based on Vaxxas’ HD-MAP technology. In the following October, a partnership was announced with the US Government to test the HD-MAP in a $A30 million agreement through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

In the same month, the Queensland Government announced it would partner with Vaxxas to establish a manufacturing facility at Brisbane’s Northshore Hamilton for late stage clinical studies.

Global impact

Vaxxas Chief Executive David Hoey said the HD-MAP technology is likely to play an important role in future pandemics because it allows vaccines to be quickly and easily deployed to people.

“Vaxxas’ HD-MAP will make it possible to post vaccines directly to people in their homes,” said Mr Hoey.

“The patch is easy to use and doesn’t require a nurse or doctor to administer the vaccine.

“So if you can use one-sixth the vaccine to get the same results faster, you can get it made up and deployed far more quickly and, as we’re learning, speed is everything in a pandemic response,” Mr Hoey said.

Image courtesy of the Translational Research Institute


Health and Science



Professor Mark Kendall



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


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