“Mucosal vaccination can stimulate both systemic and mucosal immunity and has the advantage of being a non-invasive procedure suitable for immunization of large populations,” said Varadarajan. “However, mucosal vaccination has been hampered by the lack of efficient delivery of the antigen and the need for appropriate adjuvants that can stimulate a robust immune response without toxicity.”
A fundamental limitation of intramuscular vaccines is that they are not designed to elicit mucosal immunity. As prior work with other respiratory pathogens like influenza has shown, sterilizing immunity to virus re-infection requires adaptive immune responses in the respiratory tract and the lung.
The nasal vaccine will also serve to equitably distribute vaccines worldwide, according to the researchers. It is estimated that first world countries have already secured and vaccinated multiple intramuscular doses for each citizen while billions of people in countries like India, South Africa, and Brazil with large outbreaks are currently not immunized. These outbreaks and viral spread are known to facilitate viral evolution leading to decreased efficacy of all vaccines.
“Equitable distribution requires vaccines that are stable and that can be shipped easily. As we have shown, each of our components, the protein (lyophilized) and the adjuvant (NanoSTING) are stable for over 11 months and can be stored and shipped without the need for freezing,” said Varadarajan.
Varadarajan is co-founder of AuraVax Therapeutics Inc., a pioneering biotech company developing novel intranasal vaccines and therapies to help patients defeat debilitating diseases, including COVID-19. The company has an exclusive license agreement with UH with respect to the intellectual property covering intranasal vaccines and STING agonist technologies. They have initiated the manufacturing process and plan to engage the FDA later this year.