Just Shoot Me

A supersonic gun takes the ouch out of vaccine drug delivery

Take your medication with a gun made by PowderMed in Oxford, England, and the drugs will blast into your skin at 1,500 miles per hour. “You hear the sound, so you know it’s gone off,” explains Mark Kendall, a mechanical engineer at the University of Oxford and co-inventor of the flashlight-shaped disposable device.

â€But there’s absolutely no pain.†The gun, called the PMED (for DNA particle mediated epidermal delivery device), fires microscopic drug particles just a hair’s width beneath the skin’s surface–too shallow to strike nerve endings. Designed for the administration of vaccines, the PMED has several advantages over traditional needle injections. It forces powdered DNA directly into immune cells, so patients require as little as one thousandth the dose used in needle injections. What’s more, the gun eliminates needle sticks, and the vaccine doesn’t require refrigeration, a major contributor to the high cost of distributing drugs in the developing world. Trials for influenza and HIV are now under way; next up is hepatitis B.