Dr Nicky Bertollo wins innovation award for drug and vaccine patches

Roise McGagh

Dr Bertollo will receive a research bursary of €7,000 for developing his new microneedle patch (MNP) design.

Dr Nicky Bertollo has won the 2018 University College Dublin (UCD) Allergan Innovation Award with an innovative design for patches that deliver drugs and vaccines through the skin.

Dr Bertollo will receive a research bursary of €7,000 for developing his new microneedle patch (MNP) design that will allow more effective exposure of the vaccine or drug when applied to the skin.

“The bursary will make a real difference to my research; enabling me to carry out drug-coating and elution studies that will inform how our microneedle patch design can be brought to the next stage of development,” said Dr Bertollo at the awards ceremony during the 2018 UCD Conway Festival of Research & Innovation.

Microneedle patches look like a plaster or nicotine patch but have an array of microscopic needles that deliver, for example, a flu vaccine through the skin in a painless manner. They can be self-administered and so have huge potential for widespread use.

However, conventional MNPs only achieve between 15-45 per cent exposure, as the skin can be pushed away during application. This new two-part design has angled microneedles that allow the patch to be essentially ‘clipped’ on to the skin, achieving a full effective exposure.

Dr Bertollo is an early career researcher in the UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and is working with Dr Eoin O’Cearbhaill, Fellow of UCD Conway Institute and Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering.

The team are looking to commercialise the new design with their startup UCD spin-out company, Latch Medical.

The pharmaceutical company Allergen began the €50,000 Innovation Award Programme to mark 40 years in business in 2017. UCD also secured funding through the award last year.

“We are pleased to build on our longstanding relationships with communities through providing educational support to universities and colleges around the country, by reaffirming our commitment to the future of life sciences,” said Dr Francis Bates at the ceremony. Dr Bates is the Vice President Global Solid Oral Dosage Manufacturing at Allergan and the Plant General Manager at the manufacturing facility at Clonshaugh in Dublin.

Barbara Hughes, a doctoral candidate was presented with a second bursary prize of €1,000. Her research aims to develop a live cell imaging technology that will track the development of sperm inside the human fallopian tube. Working with Professor Sabine Koelle, UCD School of Medicine and UCD Conway Institute this will help make strategies for couples in increasing their fertility and maintaining fertility in people affected by gynaecological cancer.

Roise McGagh

Image credit: UCD