Novel silk vaccine delivery device to address “cold chain” obstacles


A recent discovery using silk protein from silkwoorm cocoons could potentially change the way vaccines are stored and stockpiled forever. Researchers at Tufts University School of Engineering have discovered a way to maintain the potency of vaccines that otherwise require refrigeration for months and possibly years using such silk protein. This silk can be made in a variety of forms that allow these non-refrigerated drugs to be stored and administered in a single device. 

The biggest obstacle for these drug overtime was keeping them cold because like many antibiotics and other drugs, vaccines require constant refrigeration from manufacture to delivery to maintain their effectiveness and these findings and now help maintain vaccine potency.

International health experts estimate that nearly half of all global vaccines are lost due to breakdowns in the “cold chain.” Silk protein is unique in that it's structure and chemistry that makes it strong, resistant to moisture, stable at extreme temperatures, and biocompatible, all of which make it very useful for stabilizing antibiotics, vaccines and other drugs.

"So far researchers haven’t found any pharmaceutical that they have been unable to stabilize. This could be a universal storage and handling system, according to co-author and research assistant professor Bruce Panilaitis.  

Bruce Panilaitis will be speaking about these Tufts findings at the Influenza Congress USA under the "Improving Manufacturing, Stockpiling and Delivery" session.

Panilaitis earned his Ph.D. in biology at Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences before joining Kaplan’s lab in 2001 as a postdoctoral fellow.

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