St John’s University researcher Nitesh Kunda has received a three-year federal grant of $492,000 from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) for developing an inhalable Covid-19 vaccine.

The vaccine is intended to be inhaled as a dry powder for self-administration by people.

An inhalable vaccine is claimed to elicit potent immune responses in the lungs, which is the initial site of infection, at a reduced dose versus existing vaccines that are given as intramuscular doses.

Kunda serves as an assistant professor at St John’s University Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences Industrial Pharmacy and Pharmaceutics. 

He said: “A major goal of this project is to use the spike protein as an antigen and develop a novel, thermostable, and inhalable Covid-19 vaccine that is easy to scale up, eliminates the need for cold-chain storage and is self-administrable by individuals at home through simple inhalation.”

“In addition, eliminating this cold-chain storage would allow for easy distribution in low-income and middle-income countries with inadequate infrastructure so we can reach remote regions of the world and stockpile vaccines at a lower cost.”

The laboratory of the researcher focuses on creating dry powder biologics that do not need cold-chain storage and transport in order to cut down the biologics-based products’ price.

Under this research, a platform technology will be developed for thermostable and inhalable vaccines that address several issues linked to standard vaccines and could be leveraged for developing new vaccines against various infectious diseases.

Earlier this month, the NIH unit National Center For Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) awarded $1.1m to Sound Pharmaceuticals (SPI) to develop a new oral Covid-19 treatment, ebselen (SPI-1005).