Research ArticlesVaccines

Long-Term Thermostabilization of Live Poxviral and Adenoviral Vaccine Vectors at Supraphysiological Temperatures in Carbohydrate Glass

Science Translational Medicine  17 Feb 2010:
Vol. 2, Issue 19, pp. 19ra12
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3000490

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Candy-Coated Vaccines

According to the Gates Foundation, improved vaccines are key to progress in global health. As they state on their Web site, “Millions of lives could be saved in the developing world by creating new vaccines that are effective after a single dose, that can be delivered without needles, and that do not require refrigeration.” This work by Alcock et al. addressed the last issue: the thermostability of vaccines. They selected two viral vectors that are promising candidates for developing-world vaccines and stabilized them in a glassy film made of sugars. The viruses retained infectivity and were immunogenic for 6 months at temperatures up to 45°C.

As liquids are cooled or water is evaporated from solutions, the component molecules can form a glass, defined as a substance that has been cooled to a solid state without forming crystals. When in this state, sugars—particularly trehalose—can stabilize embedded biological molecules, whether proteins or lipids, likely because of their restricted mobility and tendency to form stabilizing hydrogen bonds with exposed hydroxyl groups. Alcock and colleagues have taken advantage of this well-known property of sugar glasses and applied it to two viruses that are being adapted as vaccines for the developing world—vaccinia virus and adenovirus. They deposited concentrated sugar solutions containing these viruses on filter-like disks and let them dry at room temperature. The viruses recovered from the disks immediately after drying were still able to infect mice and raise immune responses. By keeping the sugar-coated viruses progressively longer and at higher temperatures, the authors tested the ability of the sugar glass to stabilize the viruses in conditions closer to those encountered by a real vaccine preparation. The vaccinia virus was generally quite a bit more stable than the adenovirus, but even the adenovirus retained full infectivity and immunogenicity after 6 months at 45°C on one type of filters. After 1 month of storage at 25°C on this same kind of filter—but without the sugar glass—the adenovirus had lost all potency.

Preserving actual, effective vaccines during an extended trip from manufacturing plant to delivery site will no doubt require further optimization. But one other feature of this method may help. The filters coated with sugar can be easily fitted into a holder that attaches to a syringe for shipment and delivery. Now we just have to find a vaccine that is effective after just one dose and that can be administered without a needle.


  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Present address: Health Protection Agency, Virology Department, South West Regional Laboratory, Myrtle Road, Bristol, UK.

  • § Present email address: scienceltd{at}

  • Citation: R. Alcock, M. Cottingham, C. Rollier, J. Furze, S. D. De Costa, M. Hanlon, A. Spencer, J. Honeycutt, D. Wyllie, S. Gilbert, M. Bregu, A. V. S. Hill, Long-Term Thermostabilization of Live Poxviral and Adenoviral Vaccine Vectors at Supraphysiological Temperatures in Carbohydrate Glass. Sci. Transl. Med. 2, 18ra12 (2010).