CANBERRA (XINHUA) - Researchers from Australia's national science agency have developed a technology that could eliminate the need to refrigerate vaccines.
In a study published on Tuesday (Feb 22), the team from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that encapsulating live virus vaccines in metal organic frameworks protects their integrity for up to 12 weeks at temperatures as high as 37 deg C.
Without refrigeration or the metal organic frameworks, the vaccines would last only a few days.
The World Health Organisation estimates that each year, at least 50 per cent of vaccines are wasted globally due to the challenges of transporting them in a temperature-controlled environment, according to CSIRO.
Dr Daniel Layton, a CSIRO immunologist, said the breakthrough has the potential to enable more affordable and equitable access to vaccines across the world.
"Vaccination is undoubtedly one of the most effective medical interventions, saving millions of lives each year," said Dr Layton.
"However, delivering vaccines, particularly to developing countries, is challenging because they often lack the cold storage supply chains required to keep the vaccine viable."
The metal organic frameworks - a dissolvable crystalline material - effectively protected vaccine molecules from heat stress, according to CSIRO researchers.
The team then developed a solution that dissolved the metal organic frameworks (MOFs).
"MOFs work similarly to a scaffold you might put around your house, once you remove the scaffold, your house remains - which is what happens when we dissolve the MOFs in a vaccine," said CSIRO senior scientist Cara Doherty.
They will next focus on testing the approach for vaccines including mRNA Covid-19 vaccines.
Dr Ruhani Singh, author of the study, said the technology was cost-effective and scalable.
"There are two common approaches to protecting vaccines from heat. You can modify the vaccine, which is complex and laborious and at high temperatures may still only last less than a week, or you can use other stabilising agents which pose challenges including how to realistically scale up the solution," he said.
"This world-first approach of stabilising a vaccine with MOFs is simple, rapid and scalable because it takes one step," Dr Singh noted.
The team is expected to continue to progress this research and are looking to partner with animal and human health companies to commercialise their work, according to CSIRO.