McMaster researchers working with biotech firm in hopes of creating oral COVID-19 vaccine strip

Researchers at McMaster University have teamed up with a Burlington, Ont., biotechnology company in the hopes of creating an orally deliverable COVID-19 vaccine in the form of dissolvable film, much like current store-bought breath strips.

Dr. Alex Adronov, a polymer expert, says his group successfully completed the first stage of the technology with partner Rapid Dose Therapeutics Corp. (RDT) who’s QuickStrip technology was able to deliver proteins to an individual when placed on the inside of the cheek or under the tongue.

The development means an immune response could be triggered by a strip which would be ideal for the delivery of an oral vaccine.

“With these positive results we are moving quickly into stage two of the investigation and expect that this research will lead to new technologies in vaccine delivery in the future,” said Adronov in a media release.

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Another convenience is the strip’s stability at 40 C which would potentially eliminate the need for refrigeration. Current needle-based vaccines from Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna require ultra-low storage with temperatures ranging from -15 C to -80 C.

“These preclinical results, combined with the data analyzed to date, support the promise of the QuickStrip technology in the delivery of therapeutics, including vaccines to potentially protect against SARS-CoV-2,” said Mark Larché, PhD, from McMaster University and head immunologist on the project.

Stage two of the project will involve using actual SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins provided by the National Research Council of Canada to infuse into test strips with the hope of generating an immune response in animal models.

“The provision of spike protein is so important since the spike protein itself provides the defense against COVID-19, thus the expected successful delivery of the spike protein on our QuickStrip is a potential COVID-19 vaccine in itself,” Mark Upsdell, CEO at RDT said.

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Executives at RDT are quick to point out that they are not making any express or implied claims that its product has the ability to eliminate, cure or contain COVID-19 (or SARS-2 Coronavirus) at present.

Jason Lewis, senior vice president with RDT, believes efforts to bring the vaccine strip to life potentially could eliminate struggles to deliver vaccines quickly in the future.

“Cold-chain storage and transportation requirements, the need for highly trained personnel for administration, the cost of procurement and delivery of vials and syringes, not to mention the very real human fear of needles, can result in prolonged duration of a pandemic,” said Lewis.

“A shelf-stable, individually-administered, orally-delivered vaccine would alleviate many of these challenges.”

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