Creating the technology to keep vaccines cool for delivery to remote areas

Kitty C. Liao

The word ‘vaccine’ has probably been uttered with much more frequency by many of us over the past year. Without a doubt, science and medicine are strongly linked, and science can be used to develop new solutions to solve existing problems of vaccine spoilage related to the vaccine cold-chain. One of our alumni who is making a difference in vaccine delivery is our next inspiring speaker, Kitty C. Liao.

During the CERN Alumni Second Collisions event, Kitty will talk about the logistics issues related to vaccine delivery in challenging, remote areas and what her company, IDEABATIC, does to tackle the issue.

“Hi my name is Kitty Liao. I'm based in Cambridge, UK and I'm the founder/CEO of IDEABATIC, a UK social enterprise. I was a CERN Fellow at the Beams Department working on superconducting cavity diagnostics for an upgrade of the LHC in 2010-2013. 

I moved to the US after CERN to work on other quantum systems in cryogenic temperatures. Later on in 2014, through a humanitarian event from The Port Association, I was shocked to hear the challenges of maintaining the vaccine cold-chain at the final mile and the wastage and deaths resulting from this. With a background with innovative cryogenic systems, I reckoned there must be a way to solve these problems. I started developing solutions for the last-mile cold-chain issues and founded IDEABATIC with a vision to solve important challenges to help people with smart engineering innovation.  

In 2014, this is what I found out: according to the WHO, 18.4 million children had no basic vaccinations and between 2 and 3 million died of a vaccine-preventable disease every year. Before COVID-19, the WHO reported that globally, 20-50% of vaccines were spoiled but in reality, the spoilage is much worse with one particular remote area reporting an 85% spoilage rate. My own research in remote Nigeria and Madagascar revealed spoilage rates of 100% in some instances. 

Today, excluding COVID-19, the number of unvaccinated children has gone up to 19.9 million.  This equates to at least 1 billion dollars wasted every year. A major reason for this is that during the last few miles of delivery (‘last-mile’) vaccines become damaged by temperature fluctuations.

Existing solutions are essentially cool boxes filled with icepacks. They either freeze vaccines or last barely a day when in use. Another key issue is human error. For example, using an incorrect amount of ice, repeatedly opening the lid and leaving the lid open throughout the session all accelerate spoilage. 

Besides ensuring a device that works, a user-centred design is critical to mitigating spoilage due to human error and incorrect use. Through this, I hope to raise awareness of these issues so we can work together to achieve the goals. 

Make sure you come to my talk and see how we developed the only last-mile solution that reduces human error and spoilage.

I think Second Collisions event is a great opportunity to learn, be inspired and perhaps even collaborate towards mutual goals. So what are you waiting for? 

 

We hope you are inspired by Kitty’s story and will join us for a very special weekend designed so everyone finds something exciting and enriching in the programme.

Register here: https://alumni.cern/page/secondcollisions

 

See you in our (virtual) CERN, from 1 to 3 October 2021!

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