Professor Mark Kendall, a University of Queensland researcher who invented the Nanopatch – a needle-free vaccine delivery device – has been awarded the 2016 CSL Young Florey Medal.
The award is one of Australia’s highest science honours and recognises his achievements in a career that spans rocket technology and biomedical engineering.
The award is given in honour of penicillin co-inventor Sir Howard Florey, who in 1945 became Australia’s first Nobel Laureate in Medicine.
“It is very humbling and a great honour to receive this award,” Kendall said in a media release.
“Sir Howard Florey was a hugely inspiring individual. What he accomplished is scientific folklore.”
Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology director Alan Rowan congratulated Professor Kendall and said the Nanopatch was destined to improve the health of millions of people worldwide. Traditionally, the need to keep vaccines chilled has made vaccination schemes logistically challenging in remote and disadvantaged areas.
“Vaccines coated onto the Nanopatch do not need to be kept cold, and may require less vaccine for effective immunisation when compared to traditional needle and syringe methods,” Rowan said.
Professor Kendall first completed a PhD in hypervelocity aerodynamics at UQ.
“It didn’t seem that I was destined for medicine at all,” he said.
“But Oxford University recruited me to work on using aerodynamic principles to fire vaccines into the skin.”
This work, with others, led to the development of a “gene gun”.
“It’s basically a hand-held rocket that uses hypervelocity aerodynamics for the ballistic delivery of vaccine-coated micro-particles into the skin, leading to an improved immunological effect,” Kendall said.
He returned to UQ in 2006 and joined the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology to work on a different concept, using the skin’s immune-rich cellular environment as a vaccine delivery target.
“I was eager to overcome one of the gene gun’s biggest challenges, which was making it practical for mass vaccination in developing areas of the world,” Professor Kendall said.
“It was too expensive and too complex for field use in low-resource regions.