Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Vaccine supply innovation

I love the reading about Smarter Medicine and it was a great read for me. It never occurred to me that vaccine related supply chain management  was so difficult especially in developed country like United States.
I especially like that they would be able to think outside of the box and outsource the distribution to a third-party company which was a total relieve for them.
And I was also impressed by how they got it right. Lane, Gimson and Lamont were very clear that cost savings was not the the chief rationale for the change. For me, in this government agency, tax payers often focus too much on how much money were spent while neglecting the key issue in reforming. They got it right. But it was huge amount of effort to pitch that by implementing their recommendation, saving and enhancing children's lives through immunizations can be reached and is the primary goal.
So after this reading, I explored more about the vaccine supply chain management innovation which is a area I totally have no idea about.
Understand the problem:
How to reach remote areas of developing countries with enough cold(0-8C) vaccines to maintain regular immunization services?
If the vaccines freeze or get too warm, they're rendered ineffective, by WHO standards.[1]
The power supply is a big issue. Anyone who has lost power at their house or ran out of ice while camping can relate to the difficulty of keeping vaccines cold in areas of the developing world without reliable electricity. In this case, though, shortcomings in the temperature-controlled vaccine supply chain can be the difference between life and death.[1]

Liquid Nitrogen Dewar. Photo: Intellectual Ventures
The ideas that the scientist come up with is generated from the knowledge that they can keep liquid nitrogen cold for weeks without power.
So they started experimenting.
If super-insulation techniques like vacuum-sealing, low conductivity materials selection, and multi layered insulation (MLI) could be used for a variety of commercial purposes, it seemed feasible that they could be adapted to strengthen and extend the vaccine cold chain in developing countries.[1]
After months of iterating the design and playing with super-insulation technology, they come up with the Passive Vaccine Storage Device as shown below.

Passive Vaccine Storage Device Prototypes P1-P6. Photos: Intellectual Ventures Lab
And during this process, they heavily relied on computer modeling to ask questions using electrons before prototyping. After they collected data from the experiment, they strengthen their model and worked on better model.
They also learned a lot of the use case and they made sure they focused on who and how part of the use.
For example, these factors influenced the decisions to move away from a vending-machine-style dispensing system and to sacrifice some hold time in favor of ease-of-access and durability.[1]
The last picture shows two prototypes from P1 to P6. You can the amazing effort they put in this process.

Passive Vaccine Storage Device. Left Image: P1 prototype. Right Image: P6 prototype. Photos: Intellectual Ventures

[1]From TED to China: Invention is a journey.
[2]Smarter Medicine:

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