26 | 2017 – Award for innovative advances in the utilization of low-energy electrons for medical applications

Dresden /

Discussions about all aspects of vaccinations become heated in many locales at the start of autumn each year. Worthwhile? Necessary? Sensible? Effective? The right pathogens this year? There are many questions that concern researchers and manufacturers along with society and government. Look a bit further and you are quickly confronted with matters of efficiency, manufacturing costs, and access in developing countries for example, where vaccines are desperately needed but in some instances too expensive.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP together with another Fraunhofer Institutes (IZI, IPA and IGB) has concentrated for years on utilizing its primary core expertise – electron-beam technology – for medical applications. The researchers here have been involved with developing procedures and technologies for treating implantations, tissues, agricultural seed stock, as well as pathogens and liquids like vaccines with low-energy electrons.

A Fraunhofer consortium has been working on developing an advanced technology for inactivating vaccines for four years now. The first results of the project have already demonstrated that a wide range of virus species such as influenza (H3N8) and PRRS as well as other types of pathogenic like bacteria and fungi can be inactivated by means of low-energy electron irradiation (LEEI). The genetic substances necessary for replication of the viruses are destroyed by irradiation. However, in contrast to chemical inactivation using toxic formaldehyde for example, the surface features of the inactivated pathogens crucial for the immune response sustain less damage or modification with this new technique. The body is able to form antibodies with considerably more specificity against the pathogen and is thereby more effectively protected from them. In addition, with irradiation the pathogens no longer need to be chemically treated for several days and subsequently purified thoroughly in order to be completely inactivated. Hence, the new process can save important and expensive time in the manufacture of vaccines and reduce the costs effectively.

Javier Portillo Casado, a scientist at the Fraunhofer FEP representing all of his participating colleagues, was honored with the RTE Advanced Development Award for his presentation entitled “Low-Energy Electron Beam Irradiation of Liquids for Medical Applications” at this year's RadTech Conference & Exhibition that took place in Prague October 17–19. “The project team at the Fraunhofer FEP was extremely pleased with this honor, as were our colleagues at Fraunhofer IZI, IPA and IGB. We are proud of our results and motivated by the award to work further on these kinds of essential developments. We are also trying to make a contribution toward manufacture of safe yet economical vaccines for developing countries through new technologies.”

The Fraunhofer FEP will be presenting further innovative solutions for medical applications, for the operating theatre of tomorrow, as well as on the topic of hygiene and sterilization at a think tank scheduled during the Future Health Exhibition of the XPOMET Innovation Congress at the XPOMET Convention for Innovation and High-Tech in Medicine in Leipzig March 21–23, 2018.