The Kendall group is developing a device, which rather than delivering vaccine to the skin, instead takes biological samples away as a needle-free blood test.

Professor Mark Kendall said the Micropatch features projections designed for selectively-extracting biomarkers from the outer layers of the skin, rather than needing a needle or lancet for a blood sample.

“By applying the Micropatch to the skin, and leaving it on for under an hours, the micro projections are exposed to the fluid in the skin – which includes blood in the capillaries – capturing protein biomarkers which can be analysed when the patch is removed,” Professor Kendall said.

“The device is being advanced to have ‘plug-and-play’ functionality with a diagnostic reader. Achieving this will allow for quick and easy diagnosis of diseases such as dengue fever or malaria.”

Professor Kendall said that while blood samples taken with a needle and syringe are effective, the Micropatch offers a number of competitive advantages.

“The obvious advantage is that the Micropatch is far less invasive than a needle.  But potentially of even greater relevance, we envisage that as a diagnostic tool the Micropatch would offer an immediate diagnoses,” he said.

“Currently patients have to wait for a diagnosis, especially in developing countries; whereas an immediate diagnosis allows treatment to begin straight away.”

Kendall Group PhD student Kye Robinson was the first author on a paper published in Biointerphases, and said the Micropatch has a number of differences from the Nanopatch.

“The Micropatch is designed with different projection shapes to sample material, with surface chemistry to allow for the selective extraction of biomarkers,” Mr Robinson said.

The projections featured on the Micropatch are also longer than those on the Nanopatch, due to the need to access deeper into the skin. Despite this, the Micropatch only delves as far as the capillary loops in the dermal papillae – or fingerprint – for target probes to capture target biomarkers.

Proof of concept was successfully established during the study, with in vivo captures of antibodies specific to the dengue NS1 protein from the skin of a live mouse model.

In 2011, Professor Kendall founded the UQ start-up Vaxxas, which achieved initial capital raising of $15 million to advance the Nanopatch through clinical testing and along the pathway to a commercial product.  A further $25 million was secured during the year through Series B venture financing, which will fund clinical programs and the application of further vaccines which can be used on the platform.