Science event to explore future of silicon microneedle tech

14 May 2012

Dr Conor O'Mahony, Microneedle research manager at Tyndall National Institute; Minister Sean Sherlock, TD; and Dr Alastair Glass, chairman and acting CEO, Tyndall, with a wafer of Tyndall-produced silicon microneedles

The future of low-cost, painless drug and vaccine delivery is the topic of discussion this week at Tyndall National Institute in Cork, where up to 180 clinicians, scientists and entrepreneurs from 25 countries are converging to share their insights about microneedle technology.

The Microneedles 2012 Conference is running until 15 May at Tyndall National Institute. Based at University College Cork, the institute is supplying silicon microneedle tech to global academic and industrial partners.

Microneedles, which consist of tiny spikes measuring a mere 0.1mm to 1.0mm in length, are manufactured using techniques adapted from the computer-chip industry.#

Dr Conor O’Mahony, Microneedle research manager at Tyndall, said microneedle-based devices should be available within a few years, with the potential to glean a share of the US$30bn transdermal delivery market.

Apparently, arrays of microneedles will work by being worn in the style of an adhesive bandage or skin patch, where they will penetrate the skin and release a drug or vaccine into the body.

Such microneedle devices will have the potential to be used to treat conditions ranging from diabetes to osteoporosis, according to O’Mahony.

He said they will also play a major role in low-cost public health-management activities, such as the annual flu vaccination programme.

And, he said they will be painless to wear, due to their microscopic nature. As well as this, he said such devices will wipe out the need for people to attend a doctor’s surgery for needle-based injections.

The Minister of State for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock, TD, opened the conference, where he spoke about the how the med-tech industry is key to the Irish economy.

“Microneedle technology is a tangible example of the pioneering research being conducted across life sciences on Irish soil today,” said Sherlock.

Almost 60 companies are attending the event, which is supported by Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.

Some of the keynote speakers include Prof Mark Prausnitz from Georgia Institute of Technology, and Prof Dr Joke Bouwstra from the Leiden/Amsterdam Center for Drug Research.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic