Groundbreaking technology could change the way we vaccinate, use medicine

Posted at 7:12 AM, Dec 15, 2020

As we're all focused on the current rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, a technology known as thin-film freezing is getting a lot of attention. It's groundbreaking and could change the way we administer drugs or use medicine in general.

You've probably heard about the need to keep the COVID-19 vaccine cold. It has to be so cold, in fact, that the shipment and transport are challenging.

Well, what if that vaccine could be turned into powder?

“What we’ve most recently been working on is the elimination of cold chain by storing as a powder, a dry powder where the drug is much more stable than if it was stored as a liquid or as a frozen liquid,” said co-inventor Dr. Robert Williams.

Williams said it would eliminate the need for extreme cold storage and transport. The technology isn't new. He got a research grant and came up with it about 15 years ago.

Williams, who is also a pharmacy professor at the University of Texas in Austin, said they were working on the technology and its multiple uses when the pandemic hit.

And all of a sudden, they got a lot of attention.

“We have published over 70 papers on the technology and using it for different products- it’s quite a mature process," Williams said. "We developed it because with other vaccines, the majority of the vaccine cost is in wastage because of this cold chain issue, so we published several key papers where we showed our thin-film freezing technology would protect vaccines - and you wouldn’t need cold chain storage.”

Glenn Mattes, President, and CEO of TFF Pharmaceuticals added that the powders can be converted to topical preparations and they are currently working with the US Army to take some of the preparations and would then administer them directly through the eye.

TFF is launching thin-film freezing into development through the FDA process.

“I use the term ubiquitous because it is and disruptive because it is,” Mattes said. He added that they've explored their technology in the cannabinoid realm.

But, as for the COVID vaccine, they're aiming for a second-generation usage.

“To truly eradicate the pandemic, you have to have a global response," Mattes said. "The companies we’ve been speaking to certainly recognize the broad utilization of the technology but the application to the developing world, rural area, remote areas, where you can take a powder and inhale it or take the powder and reconstitute it has tremendous potential."

Experts say it is only just the beginning as they launch their technology into a new world.