A product designed for warfighters may only gather dust if the product’s design fails to consider its utility from the user’s perspective. To avoid this costly adverse outcome, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department (DTRA CB) routinely engages warfighters in the evaluation of potential new products that counter chemical and biological threats. Recently, at a User Feedback Event (UFE) in Camp Bullis, Texas, U.S. Army medics and physician assistants evaluated new devices that administer nucleic acid-based vaccines. DTRA CB supported this event, which was administered by the U.S. Army Medical Department Board.

DTRA CB is developing nucleic acid-based vaccines to counter natural and engineered pathogens. A nucleic acid-based vaccine contains a part of the germ’s DNA and is a new type of vaccine that produces a long-lasting immune response. Nucleic acid-based vaccines can be administered to people with unhealthy immune systems, and they have storage requirements that better accommodate the environmental conditions on a battlefield. The challenge with nucleic acid-based vaccines is in their administration; for the vaccine to produce the desired protective response, the clinician must inject the vaccine into the interior of cells. A traditional needle and syringe, alone, does not achieve this kind of site-specific delivery, but new devices produced by industry can effectively administer nucleic acid-based vaccines.

The new devices apply one of these existing technologies to open cell membranes: electroporation, ultrasound, or liquid-jet. Electroporation uses an electric current and ultrasound uses sound pulses to open cell membranes around the vaccination site; both technologies require the use of a needle and syringe to administer the nucleic acid-based vaccine. Clinicians can use the liquid-jet technology on its own — without a needle and syringe — to inject a concentrated dose of the nucleic acid-based vaccine into the cells’ interior.

Vaccine administration devices that make use of electroporation, ultrasound, and liquid-jet technologies are new, so DTRA CB enabled 18 medics and physician assistants, who provide vaccinations to military service members, to evaluate each device at the UFE in Camp Bullis. Unlike many UFEs, which have been held when product development is almost completed, thereby incurring additional cost to apply any suggested design changes, the UFE at Camp Bullis sought feedback earlier in the devices’ development process.

Four vendors demonstrated their vaccination devices: two devices applied electroporation, one applied ultrasound, and another applied liquid-jet. The vendors trained participants on how to use each device. Participants were also able to practice using each device, analyze the device’s utility, and provide relevant feedback to vendors and DTRA CB (see Figures 1 and 2).

UFEs enable potential users of a new product to evaluate it for its utility well before the product is carried onto the battlefield. Feedback generated from the UFE at Camp Bullis will help vendors further tailor the nucleic acid-based vaccine administration devices for the clinicians who will be using them to vaccinate warfighters. DTRA CB is committed to maximizing the value of innovations designed for warfighters, and UFEs contribute to this goal by involving warfighters in product evaluations.

POC: Bryan Horner, [email protected]

Date Taken: 01.30.2020
Date Posted: 01.30.2020 15:32
Story ID: 361084
Location: FORT BELVOIR , VA, US 

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