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Medtech Impact on Wellness

Dermatologist and immunologist Louis Falo has created an innovative delivery method for vaccines that also has cancer treatment applications in the form of a skin patch with a microneedle array.

He describes for listeners

  • How this reaches the dermis skin layer through dissolvable microneedles,
  • Why this skin layer, replete with antigen-presenting cells and other vital cells like T-cells, is an ideal microenvironment to initiate safe, systemic protection, and
  • The practical nature of this vaccination method including easily-shipped non-refrigerated patches that can reach multinational locations with minimal effort.

Dr. Falo received his PhD from Harvard in immunology and is Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School. He specializes in both clinical and scientific work on the immunology of the skin.

He explains that delivering vaccines to skin to address viruses in humans is not a new idea but very rarely used.  While most vaccines are now from needle injection, the first vaccine was the small pox vaccine developed in the late 1700s. It was delivered through scratches in the skin and was very successful in protecting people. Because it was not easily reproducible, the practice of using it to protect against viruses in humans dropped off and clinics have depended on muscular delivery.

However, he explains that technology has enabled a more easily reproducible method to enable a return to skin delivery. Furthermore, his lab is working on a vaccine for COVID-19 that will work with this skin patch. He describes why skin is a great entry point and is very efficient at mounting immune responses. His goal to create a delivery method to the skin that is reproducible, safe, and convenient for global deliveries led to the microneedle array.

He explains the sugar composite of the needles and why they don’t penetrate very far; rather, they stop at the dermis layer. As the needles absorb moisture in the skin, they dissolve and release the vaccine. He explains why this technology is safe, how it is easily shipped and applied, and also describes a cancer treatment this delivery system enables.

For more, see his lab page:

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