Eliminating Needles:Doctor Developing Vaccine Patch

WASHINGTON, DC-A former US Army doctor may have discovered a new method of distributing medication-one that could eliminate tears from pediatricians' offices and provide the world with a less expensive method of vaccinating the public.

Gregory Glenn has accidentally discovered a method of delivering vaccines by using skin patches. His biotechnology company, Iomai, is developing the idea Glenn found while working with mice.

In an experiment to determine whether liposomes could serve as a delivery vehicle for topical vaccines, Glenn moistened a mouse's skin with a cholera toxin solution. The toxin penetrated the skin and provoked an immune reaction.

This discovery alone overturned the dogma that huge molecules, like those of cholera toxin, couldn't penetrate the outer layer of skin. It also gave Glenn an idea. If a minute quantity of toxin mixed with vaccines can effectively immunize an animal when painted on the skin, a patch mixed with the same ingredients may do the same for humans.

Glenn and his scientists at Iomai have showed this works with the cholera germ Vibrio cholerae and the intestinal bug Escherichia coli .

His preliminary research has brought in millions of dollars from international investors. Elan Corp of Dublin, a medical company, has invested $6 million. Mitsubishi Corp of Japan has given $2 million and a Maryland development fund has invested $1 million.

Glenn is primarily excited about the development of a vaccination patch because it could revolutionize health conditions in developing countries that often struggle to find money for expensive injections.

Information from www.washingtonpost.com