Are Freeze-Dried Vaccines the Future?

Scientists have found a way to preserve vaccines that doesn’t require refrigeration.

Vaccines save lives, but they’re fickle. The requirement of cold chains to maintain the efficacy can add cost and logistical hurdles to an already complicated distribution system. A recent VICE article discussed an innovative new way of preserving vaccines that could simplify the process significantly. A team of biochemical engineers found a way to freeze-dry the essential components of a vaccine so that they can be rehydrated with a drop of water and administered in just one hour.

The team proved the concept with a bacterial vaccine, but believe the strategy can be applied to viruses as well. The process is called iVax, and according to a co-author of the study who is a professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern, it’s not too different from how strawberries are freeze-dried in cereal. In that state, the cellular extracts will remain stable for months without temperature control. When they’re needed, they can be purified and administered for about $1 a dose.

Related reading: Listerine Breath Strips Inspire New Vaccine Storage Technique