Wednesday, September 14, 2016

UK student who invented a portable cooling device to store vaccines at right temperature

 This back-pack refrigerator will save lives

Cool idea | talks to UK student who invented a portable cooling device to store vaccines at right temperature

A leading producer and exporter of vaccines, India is also home to one-third of the world’s unimmunised children. According to Health Affairs, a journal on health policy and research, less than 44% of India’s children receive the full schedule of immunisation.

Another paper published by University of Michigan, says only 18% of children in the country are vaccinated with the recommended three doses of diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) vaccine, while about one third receive measles vaccination under govt-supported immunisation programmes.

A number of factors contribute to children not receiving regular vaccination, the most important being difficult access to hospitals in rural India. Even then, while children may be vaccinated, the vaccines are stored in ice to room temperatures where the vaccines lose their potency.

Enter ISOBAR, a portable cooling device for vaccines, invented by UK resident William Broadway. Broadway, a student of Loughborough University won the 2016 James Dyson Award – given to students who design something that can solve a long-term problem – for this invention.

Speaking to dna, Broadway said that he read a book during a trip to Cambodia titled ‘From the killing fields to the healing fields’ by Howard Clarke. “This book showed me some of the systemic issues that people still face within vaccine transportation,” he said.

After this, Broadway and a group of friends went on a surfing trip to Mexico. “We bought 13kg of ice with us to cool our food and drink. This barely lasted a day and was such a waste. We had four propane stoves with us and the question I asked was what if you can make a cooling effect after you have heated the device. I found there were all kinds of fridges that do this called absorption refrigerators. Unfortunately they were all far too complex to fit into anything people could carry,” he added.

Through research, Broadway found that the last mile was the most problematic area for vaccine transportation.

The whole system breaks down for various reasons like transportation breakdowns and communication issues that put strains on the current coolers which only operate between 8-10 hours. “This is not enough for remote regions and it leads to a high loss of potency at point of delivery,” he said.

Broadway says that the ISOBAR is made up of three components: the backpack, the cooling unit and the propane burner. The backpack is made using insulating material and the cooling unit is made using a technology that provides long-term charge. “It can be charged either using electricity or the propane burner,” he said, adding that the propane burner should ideally be used in an emergency situation i.e. when there is no electricity available.

While speaking on improving the design of the ISOBAR, Broadway said, “I am talking with more experts about the backpack and the insulation. The backpack itself is only 1.6 litres which is enough for 2,640 doses or 800 people if they receive three doses each. Initially I have been looking into standard insulating materials and liners but primarily looking at a thick layer of polypropylene foam core with multiple silicon air seals for the entry way for the cooling unit,” he informed.

Broadway says that while hospitals can store vaccines at the right temperatures i.e. between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, the vaccine distribution system is unstable, as it is unable to provide temperature ranges that vaccines need.

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