The DIOSvax technology produced by the University of Southampton aims to predict how the virus could mutate.

A new needle-free vaccine, developed by the University of Southampton using DIOSvax technology is being trialled in the UK. The vaccine uses a jet of air to push through the skin rather than a needle and differs from the mechanism found in Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

“This isn't simply ‘yet another’ coronavirus vaccine as it has both COVID-19 variants and future coronaviruses in its sights,” said Saul Faust, clinical chief investigator and director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Southampton Clinical Research Facility. “This technology could give wide-ranging protection to huge numbers of people worldwide.”

“As new variants emerge and immunity begins to wane, we need newer technologies,” said Professor Jonathan Heeney at the University of Cambridge, who helped developed the vaccine with research company DIOSynVax. “It's vital that we continue to develop new generation vaccine candidates ready to help keep us safe from the next virus threats.”

While most existing COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA technology to target the spike protein of virus samples found in January 2020, DIOSvax aims to predict how the virus could mutate, allowing it to target emerging variants.

“DIOS-CoVax vaccines target elements of the virus structure that are common to all known ‘beta-coronaviruses' – those coronaviruses that are the greatest disease threats to humans. These are structures that are vitally important to the virus life cycle, which means we can be confident that they are unlikely to change in the future,” Professor Heeney explained. “These next generation DIOSvax vaccines should protect us against variants we've seen so far – alpha, beta, delta variants, for example – and hopefully future-proof us against emerging variants and potential coronavirus pandemics.”

It is hoped that the needle-free mechanism will additionally help those with needle phobias receive full COVID-19 vaccination. If successful, the technology has the potential to be scaled up and manufactured as a powder to boost global vaccination efforts, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.