By Busani Bafana
SEOUL, Jan 22 2024 (IPS)
If the fear of sharps makes a visit to the doctor dreadful, you need not dread it anymore.
A South Korean company’s invention of an innovative micro-needle patch could make you look forward to your next doctor’s visit.
The micro-needle patch (MAP) is a painless, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly way to administer vaccines and drugs in place of solid injections, its developers say.
The MAP system has the combined advantages of conventional patches and syringes. It has tiny needles whose tips are less invasive and almost painless when administering drugs, Chi Yong Kim, Research Coordinator at QuadMedicine, tells IPS.
“The feeling of the micro-needle is like a cat’s tongue. It’s like a scratch that does not cause pain,” Kim says of the MAP, which also delivers active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in the correct amounts.
QuadMedicine has patented the form of micro-needle patches that are separable MAPs, where the tips of the needle themselves are active APIs. In delivering the API, the tips of the micro-needle are inserted into the skin and break off, reducing delivery time and increasing delivery efficiency by almost 100 percent, said Kim.
Kim notes that the MAPS also offer the advantage of portability, and they are stable at room temperature, making them easy to carry, store, and transport before they are administered. Besides, the MAP can be recycled safely without generating much waste.
According to the World Health Organization, annually, an estimated 16 billion injections are administered worldwide, but not all of the needles and syringes are properly disposed of, making it necessary to ensure safe and environmentally sound management of health care waste.
“Alternatively, we can also freeze dry forms of vaccines that use the same powder form of API,” he said, adding that lyophilized powder can be attached to the MAP.
The company is now investigating comparable vaccines and drugs, for instance, the messenger mRNA vaccines that can be used in the microneedle or patch platform. Plans are afoot to submit an IND filing for a clinical trial soon, and prototypes of the coated MAP and the separable MAP will be tested through Phase I to III clinical trials.
Kim said low- and middle-income countries as well as the premium market were targeted for innovation, which means vaccine-loaded MAPs will be affordable for global health. For example, certain vaccines, such as the influenza vaccine, have a dosage-saving effect when applied with a micro-needle. The same amount of antigen used for the intramuscular route with a syringe is no longer used, so the API amount can be reduced when loaded on the micro-needles.
While professionals like medical staff or doctors must currently inject vaccines, the goal with the micro needles or patches is that volunteers can give them to patients who need vaccinations.
“I have a fear of the sharps,” Kim said, explaining that each time he visited the hospital, nurses asked him to relax so that his muscles could not be punched.
“I took my kids to the family doctor, and there was one option, the solid micro needle,” he said, explaining that a personal experience with the fear of needles was a coincidental decision for him to specialize at QuadMedicine, which has been involved in the development of the MAPS and patches.
“We have been developing new platforms to deliver vaccines and drugs through coated MAP or dissolvable MAP, which is a possible alternative to solid needles and a better solution to deliver the correct amount of the drugs and vaccines for our body to make good immune responses.”
IPS UN Bureau Report
IPS UN Bureau, IPS UN Bureau Report, South Korea