A British company developing needle-free jabs has teamed up with Imperial College's Covid vaccine researchers to see if its device can be used to administer coronavirus vaccines.

Enesi Pharma, which is based in Oxford, has developed an instrument that can deliver vaccinations under the skin with practically no pain for the patient. The vaccine is made into a tiny solid stick measuring 0.85mm in diameter and 3.5mm long, with a point at the end. Enesi’s device, called ImplaVax, injects the stick into the patient.

Crucially, the solid dose means the vaccine does not need to be kept cool, a particular benefit for countries with warmer climates and for pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Moderna, whose mRNA Covid vaccines have to be kept at extremely cold temperatures.

There is no risk of needle breakage and it is easy to administer, avoiding the need for doctors or nurses to carry out the procedure. There is also the possibility that ImplaVax could administer two jabs in one, avoiding the need for a booster.

Enesi and Imperial have already tested ImplaVax using DNA-based vaccines in animals. Success there has prompted the researchers to apply the technology to the RNA vaccine, being developed by Professor Robin Shattock and his team at the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London. That vaccine is currently in phase I/II clinical trials in humans.

"We believe ImplaVax will be transformational for RNA vaccines, which all have the same limitations of having to be kept very cold," said David Hipkiss, chief executive of Enesi Pharma.

ImplaVax is already in animal trials for a number of other diseases, including measles, HPV, plague, pandemic flu and Zika virus. Enesi collaborates with institutions including Barda in the US and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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