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Near-IR lasers set to aid vaccinations

30 Jul 2014

US firm SemiNex awarded project funding by National Institutes of Health.

SemiNex, Peabody, Ma, USA, a manufacturer of high power infrared lasers, was awarded a Small Business Technology Transfer grant by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop small laser devices to enhance immune responses to vaccines. The grant will enable the development of these lasers and comparative testing against existing large laser systems.

To conduct the tests, SemiNex is collaborating with Dr. Satoshi Kashiwagi of the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center (VIC) at Massachusetts General Hospital, which discovered that treatment of human skin with certain infrared lasers promotes better immune responses to vaccines. With positive results, the company plans to continue collaboration with VIC to develop a small laser device suitable for clinical use.

Early studies by VIC have shown near-infrared laser treatment pre-vaccination to increase influenza vaccine efficacy as well as currently-approved chemical adjuvants (boosters). A report of the findings can be found in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Using NIR lasers as an adjuvant has the benefit of being compatible with intradermal vaccines, without the side effects seen frequently with chemical adjuvants, such as inflammation and tissue damage. Many influenza vaccines are administered without any adjuvants due to these side effects and the complications of adding a chemical adjuvant to the vaccine.

“The use of an infrared laser to promote immune responses to vaccination is a novel approach that has shown benefit with an influenza vaccine,” said Dr. Kashiwagi. “To reach the clinic, the technology first needs to be more widely assessed by laboratories studying vaccines for other diseases.”

The NIH grant will support development of small laser prototypes that will allow testing device kits to be sent to laboratories working on new vaccines. SemiNex currently produces a laser device for skin applications that is small and portable.

Dr. John Callahan, Vice President of Engineering & Development at SemiNex, will work in conjunction with VIC to modify the laser device to meet the necessary optical parameters required to further enhance immune responses to vaccination. The grant will also enable SemiNex to develop software to control the laser from a computer, tablet or smart phone.

“We are interested in developing a laser system that will be easy for scientists to program, use and advance scientist research and development of wide-ranging medical treatments,” said David Bean, President of SemiNex. “We want to develop tools that will help scientists make advances in health care. The creation of inexpensive devices that can do the same job as more expensive lasers is at the heart of what our company does.”

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor tooptics.org.

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