COVID-19 vaccine inhaler: Swedish company working on easy, cheaper alternative

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A Swedish company is currently developing a COVID-19 vaccine that can be self-administered with an inhaler, which could make it an easier and cheaper alternative to currently approved jabs.

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The Lund-based inhalation company Iconovo is teaming up with ISR, an immunotherapy company, to develop a coronavirus vaccine that can be stored at room temperature and is easily self-administered through their inhaler ICOone.

“The potential for an innovation like this will be huge if it reaches the market. We believe that ICOone has the potential to replace injections of vaccines and other important molecules, thereby offering a smarter way to administer these pharmaceuticals,” the Chief Executive Officer of Iconovo, Johan Wäborg, said.

By using an inhaler, the vaccine will directly reach the lungs and will activate the immune system’s defense, Iconovo said in a statement.

Unlike current vaccines on the market that use RNA or DNA that code for these proteins – such as Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca – the inhaler uses manufactured COVID-19 proteins.

The new vaccine method also differs from currently available jabs in that it does not have to be stored in low temperatures.

Woman holds a vial labelled COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine over dry ice in this illustration taken, December 5, 2020. (Reuters)
Woman holds a vial labelled COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine over dry ice in this illustration taken, December 5, 2020. (Reuters)

“Removing the need for refrigeration and the handling of contagious material represents a large savings potential and can potentially eliminate the risk of spreading disease through infected needles,” Iconovo said in a statement.

The currently available vaccines must be stored in glass vials in temperatures as low as -70 degrees or they lose their effectiveness.

“The platform of ICOone with its flexibility enables a rapid, affordable and effective development of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for the respiratory tract,” ISR Chief Executive Officer Ola Winqvist said.

“The collaboration is now deepening and broadened to include both nasal and lung administration, which we see as a great advantage, as different respiratory pathogens may have different entry ports in the airways. We see the collaboration with Iconovo as a long-term partnership with the aim of establishing a series of different vaccines.”

A step towards ending vaccine inequity

The development of an inhaled vaccine could help bridge the vaccine inequity gap between developed and developing countries, according to Iconovo and ISR.

“Iconovo and ISR believe that an inhaled vaccine will be of greatest use in developing countries with restricted access to refrigeration and where the vaccination programs have not advanced yet,” the companies said in a statement.

While developed countries have been able to vaccinate significant numbers of their populations, poorer countries have been struggling to provide enough vaccines to contain the outbreak.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), less than one percent of the population in some low and middle-income countries have been vaccinated.

The high price of COVID-19 vaccine doses, delivery and maintenance costs, as well as an insufficient health workforce has put a strain on health systems in developing countries. With an inhaler coronavirus vaccine, the strain could be mitigated significantly.

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