ANAHEIM, Calif.—Trelleborg Life Sciences has seen the future, and it likely involves microneedle patches.
The division of Trelleborg A.B. said the transdermal and subcutaneous delivery systems market is growing rapidly because of the convenience these systems provide patients compared to current counterparts. Trelleborg said device manufacturers are investing in research and development and design strategies geared toward the transdermal drug delivery industry, which is projected to reach $21.7 billion by 2018.
Luis Tissone, director of Life Sciences at Trelleborg Sealing Solutions, spoke about the firm's activities in this market at the recent MDM West show in Anaheim. Some of the products he touched upon included transdermal patches with microneedles for drug delivery, high speed rotary seals with low friction and performance in low temperature, silicone tubing with a longer life of operation, and catheter with thinner walls.
Of the devices he mentioned, Tissone said transdermal microneedle patches are a large focus for the immediate future.
“This microneedle patch has the potential of replacing syringes in vaccines,” he said. “It's a good treatment option for diabetes and other chronic diseases. The microneedles penetrate the skin to a layer that is the ideal place for the drug to be distributed evenly in the body.”
These patches are still in development, but Tissone said that if successful, doctors will be able to administer vaccines easier and without the use of a syringe. Anyone that can apply a band aid can apply the patch.
He added that LSR is emerging as an ideal material for these kinds of patches for a number of reasons. The first is that when silicone is placed on the body, it's easy to remove, leaves no residue and does not re-injure the skin. The second is that silicone is processed in a closed loop—it comes in a sealed barrel and from there is loaded into an injection machine, into a mold, and then a part is created.
One of the main challenges is that LSR is a little more elastic than what might be needed. Tissone said hardness is required to pierce the skin. So far similar devices such as nicotine patches have been pretty typical, but the molecules that make up vaccines are bigger and cannot get through the skin without breaking it, which is why microneedles are required.
“Things are being developed right now, so we don't know exactly how this is going to look in the future in terms of what the exact material will be,” Tissone said. “There are several things we're seeing a trend for. LSR is definitely a material that is very good for microneedle patches. It is biocompatible.”
Tissone said three types of microneedles ultimately could be developed. The first is a hollow one. The patch is loaded with a drug, then applied to the body and pressed; the drugs then flow through the needles under the skin.
Second is a coated microneedle; the coating is the vaccine that the doctor wants to deliver. When the patch is applied, the coating gets released under the skin.
Third is self-dissolvable microneedles; once they penetrate they dissolve. The needles themselves are the drug, and it's released into the body once dissolved.
Tissone said of the three, the coated microneedles are emerging as the popular choice among researchers. The next step is to figure out how many drugs they'll be able to coat and the size of the patch needed to deliver the appropriate amount.
“This is very exciting,” he said. “I don't think anybody knows what's going to be the final thing, but it's coming, and it's coming fast. When it's finally used in the market, it's going to replace a lot of syringe vaccinations. It's going to be great for physicians too.”