Breakthrough by Irish scientists could spell end of needle jab

Scientists based at an Irish research hub are developing medical technology which could spell the end of the dreaded needle jab.

Almost 180 clinicians, scientists and entrepreneurs from 25 countries are in Cork this week to discuss the future of microneedle technology at a conference hosted by the Tyndall National Institute and UCC.

Microneedles, which consist of tiny spikes just 0.1mm to 1.0mm in length, are made using techniques adapted from the computer chip industry.

Arrays of microneedles will be worn like a plaster or skin patch, where they will penetrate the skin and release a drug or vaccine into the body.

They will be used to treat conditions ranging from diabetes to osteoporosis, and will play a major role in low-cost public health management activities such as the annual flu vaccination programme.

But crucially, because they are microscopic, they are completely painless to wear, and users will no longer need to attend a doctor’s surgery for needle-based injections.

Experts reckon the devices will be on the market within just a few years, capturing a slice of a $30bn (€23.36bn) medical market.

The Microneedles 2012 Conference is being hosted by the Tyndall, who are suppliers of world-leading silicon microneedle technology to several global academic and industrial partners.

Almost 60 companies are represented at the conference, which is supported by Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.

Conference chair Dr Conor O’Mahony, microneedle research manager at Tyndall, said the diverse attendance of delegates from around the world reflects the enormous potential of the technology.

Minister of State for Enterprise and Innovation Sean Sherlock said the medical technologies industry is key to the Irish economy.

“Ireland is globally recognised as a major centre of excellence in the medical technologies sector and on a par with some of the world’s leading MedTech centres,” he said.

“We have world-class, highly innovative Irish companies that are designing and delivering complex medical devices and services throughout the world.

“Microneedle technology is a tangible example of the pioneering research being conducted across life sciences on Irish soil today that will provide major societal benefits and, critically, significantly improved patient outcomes.”


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