Institutes partner to create education tool for DNA-based vaccine delivered through a nasal spray

Thursday, March 25, 2021

What is nanotechnology, and how does it help us everyday?

To answer this question, the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN) partnered with the Games Institute (GI) to create a playful online education app. This project aims to explore and explain how nanotechnology is used in our everyday lives using digital visual storytelling and game technology.

For our first joint effort, we will showcase the research of WIN members Roderick Slavcev, Emmanuel Ho and Marc Aucoin on DNA vaccine nasal spray which can help inoculate against COVID-19. For this, they collaborated with Lennart Nacke’s HCI Games Group at the GI to design the online app. The project visually shows how the nasal spray will administer the DNA-based vaccine that will enter the cells in targeted tissues and cause them to produce a virus-like particle (VLP) that will stimulate an immune response in people. This will hopefully be the first of many similar projects between WIN and GI designed to highlight aspects of key theme areas of nanotechnology and how it impacts our lives daily.

The research featured in this tool developed by researchers and interaction designers from the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business, the Department of Systems Design Engineering, and the School of Public Health and Health Systems and international partners, is also an interdisciplinary collaboration between professors from the School of Pharmacy and the Chemical Engineering department at the University of Waterloo.

A screen capture from the project
This DNA-based vaccine delivered through a nasal spray, targets the COVID-19 virus and other viruses as they emerge. The vaccine will work by using engineered bacteriophages, a process that will allow the vaccine to stimulate an immune response in the nasal cavity and target tissues in the lower respiratory tract. When completed, the vaccine will enter cells in targeted tissues and cause them to produce a virus-like particle (VLP) that will stimulate an immune response in people. The VLP will look similar to the structure of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes COVID-19) but is harmless. This similarity will activate the body’s natural immune response to protect against viral infections comparable to VLPs, including SARS-CoV-2. It will also bind to receptors that SARS-CoV-2 would bind to, limiting the possible sites for transmission. By causing these changes in the body, the vaccine will build immunity against COVID-19 and decrease the severity of infections in progress – serving as both a therapeutic and a vaccine. Professor Roderick Slavcev will design the nanomedication that will be delivered by the nasal spray and Professor Marc Aucoin who will construct and purify the VLP and boosting immunity following the initial administration of the therapeutic vaccine.