Polymer microneedles for transdermal delivery of biopharmaceuticals
Sullivan, Sean Padraic
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Biopharmaceuticals, including proteins, DNA and vaccines, are one of the fastest growing segments of the overall pharmaceutical market. While the hypodermic injection, the most common delivery method for these molecules, is effective, it also has limitations, including low patient compliance, need for medically trained personnel and biohazardous sharps after delivery. The overall goal of this thesis was to develop a new delivery system for biopharmaceuticals, based on dissolving polymer microneedles, which is effective and more patient compliant than the hypodermic needle. Microneedles are microscopic needles that are large enough to insert into the skin to deliver drugs effectively, while being short enough to avoid the pain causing nerves deep in the skin. An additional benefit of polymer microneedles is that the needles completely dissolve in the skin, leaving behind no biohazardous sharps. There are significant material and fabrication issues that must be overcome in the development of this new device. The first part of this thesis focused on the development of a new fabrication process, based on in situ photopolymerization, for the creation of polymer microneedles. These microneedles were shown to successfully insert into the skin, dissolving within a minute to deliver the encapsulated cargo, and retain full activity of encapsulated proteins. Next, we applied the microneedle technology to the delivery of the influenza virus. We found that the reformulation process required to encapsulate the influenza virus in polymer microneedles did not affect the antigenicity or immunogenicity of the virus. In addition, we used coated metal microneedles to successfully immunize mice with the influenza virus, verifying the delivery capabilities of a microneedle system. Finally, we used the dissolving polymer microneedles to successfully immunize mice with the influenza virus, resulting in full protection against lethal challenge after one immunization. This immune response was equivalent to the control intramuscular injection. In conclusion, we have developed dissolving polymer microneedles as an effective and patient compliant delivery system for biopharmaceuticals. This system could be especially applicable to mass immunization efforts or home use, since it can be self-administered and allows for easy disposal with no biohazardous sharps.