Pentagon, NIH fund pollen-based vaccine delivery research

Neung Stocker Photography/Shutterstock.com

Research could one day allow troops in the field to vaccinate themselves against biological warfare threats.

The U.S. government in recent months has committed nearly $2 million for research that could one day allow troops in the field to vaccinate themselves against biological warfare threats.

At the core of the Texas Tech University work on improved vaccine delivery is pollen -- the allergy-provoking powder released by flowering plants.

A television commercial provided the spark for the project’s inception three years ago, said lead researcher Harvinder Gill, a chemical engineer who specializes in vaccine and drug delivery at the Lubbock institution.

“I was basically passing by the television and I saw these nicely shaped particles on the TV screen,” he told Global Security Newswire on Friday. “I didn’t know what it was. I just stopped and realized it’s actually an advertisement for an anti-allergy drug to treat pollen allergies.”

Manufacturing synthetic versions of such particles is difficult. Even though the pollens depicted in the commercial “were causing allergies, I wondered if I could use them for a different application, which is to deliver drugs and vaccines into the human body,” Gill said.

Since then, Gill and his colleagues have determined that the allergens within pollen particles can be chemically removed and replaced with a test vaccine. The particles have a hardened shell that would allow the treatment to survive the trip through the stomach and into the intestines to provide protection against infection, Gill said.

The researcher said he believes vaccine-carrying pollens could be delivered via pills or liquids. An oral delivery system offers a number of potential benefits over injections, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Rather than requiring shots administered by medical professionals, pills could simply be easily swallowed without pain or hassle even in far-off deployment spots. The drugs could also be more easily shipped to troops in the field than liquid vaccines, the agency said in a Nov. 27press release announcing Gill as a recipient of a DARPA Young Faculty Award.

“Soldiers could really carry them with them or it could be para-dropped in different locations,” Gill said. “Those are just advantages … the armed forces could envision getting.”

The benefits might also extend to the civilian population, he added. “It is child-friendly, patient-friendly.  A lot of disadvantages of vaccinations go away suddenly,” Gill said.

The Defense Department office provided Gill’s team with $300,000. In September, the researchers received $1.5 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health to continue the project.

The Pentagon office said an orally delivered vaccine could be used against any number of diseases but did not offer specifics. The agency did not respond to requests for further information on its funding of Gill’s work.

“By using different combinations of pollens we might be in a position to deliver most vaccines,” according to Gill.

Unlike a vaccine administered by injection, a treatment that is ingested could increase mucous membrane immunity in the lungs and intestines, preventing infection from starting in those key bodily systems and then spreading. The test vaccine carried by pollen particles showed “fantastic” results in producing disease-fighting antibodies in test mice, Gill said.

Texas Tech has submitted an application for one patent related to the research and intends to seek another, according to a university press release.

Gill acknowledged that it would require years of research and testing before the work leads to a product that might be available to the military or civilians.

“We want to understand how it’s working,” he said. “We basically tried it and it worked. We need to now understand how the immune response is working.”

(Image via Neung Stocker Photography/Shutterstock.com)

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.