Need to activate a vaccine? Just add water

Researchers from Harvard have been able to successfully developed a way to transport vaccines using molecular manufacturing to keep the medication safe for traveling.

Millions of people worldwide have difficulty in accessing basic vaccinations because they reside in an area without refrigeration, needed to keep vaccines viable for use. A team from Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has released findings about developing vaccines, antimicrobial peptides and antibody conjugates that can be transported anywhere on the globe regardless of if they have refrigeration or not.

"The ability to synthesize and administer biomolecular compounds, anywhere, could undoubtedly shift the reach of medicine and science across the world," said Wyss Core Faculty member James Collins, PhD, a professor of Medical Engineering & Science at MIT. "Our goal is make biomolecular manufacturing accessible wherever it could improve lives."

The team developed the “just add water” method from the idea that freeze-dried pellets with vaccinations can be activated with water. The freeze-dried pellets can be transported long distances without the refrigeration and can last up to a year. The method includes two types of pellets, the first containing the “machinery” and the second containing DNA instructions that start the “machinery."

Researchers have successfully tested the method on the vaccination for diphtheria in mice and hope the method will be able to create batches of vaccinations for a wide range of diseases for mass distribution. The portability of these treatment mean that vaccinations could be distributed quickly in the case of an outbreak and wounds could be treated on site with topical antimicrobial peptides.

"Synthetic biology has been harnessed to increase efficiency of manufacturing of biological products for medical and energy applications in the past, however, this new breakthrough utterly changes the application landscape," said Wyss Core Faculty member Donald Ingber, MD, PhD, a professor of vascular biology at Harvard Medical School. "It's really exciting because this new biomolecular manufacturing technology potentially offers a way to solve the cold chain problem that still restricts delivery of vaccines and other important medical treatments to patients in the most far-flung corners of the world who need them the most."