It is likely that gene-based vaccines will enter the human vaccine area soon. A few veterinary vaccines employing this concept have already been licensed, and a multitude of clinical trials against infectious diseases or different forms of cancer are ongoing. Highly important when developing novel vaccines are the safety aspects and also new adjuvants and delivery techniques needs to be carefully investigated so that they meet all short- and long-term safety requirements. One novel in vivo delivery method for plasmid vaccines is electroporation, which is the application of short pulses of electric current immediately after, and at the site of, an injection of a genetic vaccine. This method has been shown to significantly augment the transfection efficacy and the subsequent vaccine-specific immune responses.

However, the dramatic increase in delivery efficacy offered by electroporation has raised concerns of potential increase in the risk of integration of plasmid DNA into the host genome. Here, we demonstrate the safety and lack of integration after immunization with a high dose of a multigene HIV-1 vaccine delivered intradermally using the needle free device Biojector 2000 together with electroporation using Derma Vax™ DNA Vaccine Skin Delivery System. We demonstrate that plasmids persist in the skin at the site of injection for at least four months after immunization. However, no association between plasmid DNA and genomic DNA could be detected as analyzed by qPCR following field inversion gel electrophoresis separating heavy and light DNA fractions. We will shortly initiate a phase I clinical trial in which healthy volunteers will be immunized with this multiplasmid HIV-1 vaccine using a combination of the delivery methods jet-injection and intradermal electroporation.

Bråve A, Gudmundsdotter L, Sandström E, Haller BK, Hallengärd D, Maltais AK, King AD, Stout RR, Blomberg P, Höglund U, Hejdeman B, Biberfeld G, Wahren B. Vaccine. 2010 Nov 29;28(51):8203-9. Epub 2010 Oct 15.