Mark Prausnitz, Ph.D.

Vaccination Using Microneedle Patches: Design, Development and Clinical Translation

While vaccines have dramatically reduced morbidity and mortality due to infectious diseases, there remain significant opportunities to improve vaccine immunogenicity and delivery. To address this need, we have developed microneedle patches, each containing an array of micron-sized needles on an adhesive backing, to be used for vaccine delivery to the skin. Our studies show that skin vaccination using microneedle patches is significantly more immunogenic than conventional intramuscular injection, as measured by improved humoral and cellular immune responses, protection against disease, longevity of immune responses, breadth of immunity and other measures. Microneedle patches can also improve vaccine delivery because they are easily and painlessly applied by pressing against the skin and, when using water-soluble microneedles, do not leave behind sharps waste. The patches are single-dose, do not require reconstitution, are easy to administer, have reduced size to simplify storage, transportation and waste disposal, and often have increased thermostability. Our studies have emphasized influenza vaccination, including many small-animal studies that have enabled a Phase 1 clinical trial currently under way. Additional studies have examined inactivated polio, measles and rubella vaccines in monkeys and a number of other vaccines in small animals. Translation of this technology into commercial development is occurring at a number of companies, including one that was founded by our team at Georgia Tech.


Prausnitz_portraitMark Prausnitz is Regents’ Professor and J. Erskine Love Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned a BS degree from Stanford University and a PhD degree from MIT, both in chemical engineering. Dr. Prausnitz and his colleagues carry out research on biophysical methods of drug delivery, which employ microneedles, ultrasound, lasers and other physical means to control the transport of drugs and vaccines into and within the body.

A major area of focus involves the use of microneedle patches to apply vaccines to the skin in a painless, minimally invasive manner. In collaboration with Emory University, CDC and other organizations, Dr. Prausnitzʼs group is advancing microneedles from device design and fabrication through pharmaceutical formulation and pre-clinical animal studies and into studies in human subjects. The Prausnitz group has also developed hollow microneedles for targeted drug delivery in the eye in collaboration with Emory University. Other projects including the use of laser-activated nanoparticles to facilitate intracellular delivery of molecules, design of ionic liquids as pharmaceuticals and adaptation of microneedle technology to extract fluid from the skin for diagnostic and monitoring purposes.

In addition to research activities, Dr. Prausnitz teaches an introductory course on engineering calculations, as well as two advanced courses on pharmaceuticals. He also serves the broader scientific and business communities as a frequent consultant, advisory board member and expert witness, and has co-founded four start-up companies.