McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster researchers work to make vaccines more accessible

Published: October 3, 2014
Ali Ashkar
Ali Ashkar, professor, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, will lead the research team investigating how to make vaccines more accessible.

A research project using equipment of McMaster University's Biointerfaces Institute has the potential to make vaccines for deadly illnesses much more affordable and available worldwide.

The research will be led by Ali Ashkar, professor of pathology and molecular medicine and a researcher at McMaster Immunology Research Center and the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, and Carlos Filipe, a McMaster professor of chemical engineering.

It is one of eight Canadian initiatives to receive support from Grand Challenges Canada, the federally-funded program that aims to improve maternal and child health in developing countries around the world.

Using an idea from chemical engineering PhD student Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, the group first developed a way to store fragile biologics at room temperature by embedding them in the same kind of dissolvable gel used in Listerine breath strips. This provides them a protective barrier and enabled them to store fragile enzymes and other agents in tiny pills for easy, cheap and immediate water testing in the field, a process that replaces cumbersome, slow and expensive lab tests.

The team that developed the water-testing pill realized the technology could be used in many more applications, including vaccines, and the $100,000 funding from Grand Challenges Canada will allow the McMaster researchers to test the same idea with vaccines for diseases such influenza, measles, diphtheria, tetanus.

"It's the same recipe," said Filipe. "I think it's within our grasp, at least for some vaccines."

Currently such vaccines require refrigeration, making them expensive to store and transport, and often putting them out of reach of people in developing countries. If the research is successful, vaccines could be transported and stored virtually anywhere, at low cost, and reconstituted on site using sterile water.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Level Double-A conformance, W3C WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0