Innovation

This 15-Year-Old Inventor Is Saving Lives by Revolutionizing the Way We Move Vaccines

by Rafi Schwartz

August 5, 2015
image via (cc) flickr user UNAMID

Vaccines are tricky things. In order to be effective at inoculating a subject against a particular disease, they have to be maintained and administered under very specific conditions, particularly when it comes to temperature. Let them get too hot or cold for too long and their usefulness drops significantly. Unfortunately, when it comes to transporting vaccines to, and storing them in remote locales, maintaining the necessary temperature parameters to ensure efficacy isn’t always possible. As a result, the “last leg” of a vaccine’s trip to an isolated, or difficult-to-access community can end up being the most logistically challenging portion of its overall journey from lab into the field. 

As an infant in India, Anurudh Ganesan experienced this first hand when, in order to reach the nearest vaccination spot, his grandparents were forced to carry him ten miles, only to discover that the inoculations waiting there had lost their potency during the family’s trek. Inspired by that experience, Anurudh, now 15, has created a solution he hopes will ensure no one in his situation will face the same infection risk he once did—a risk that plays a role in the 1.5 million annual child deaths associated with lack of proper vaccinations.  

Anurudh’s “No Ice, No Electric” vaccine transportation system, which he’s dubbed VAXXWAGON, is, in essence, a vapor compression refrigeration unit. Requiring very little power to operate, VAXXWAGON can maintain the necessary temperature range of two to eight degrees (Celsius) within which vaccinations are safe, all from the minimal energy created by human or animal movement. In other words, the act of transporting a vaccine within the VAXXWAGON is the very thing that will ensure the medicine stays at its requisite temperature for the duration of the trip. 

Here’s the VAXXWAGON being tested on a treadmill: 

And here it is after having been attached to the rear of a bike:

In both cases, reports Ganesan, the contents of the refrigerated unit were kept within the Goldilocks range of two to eight degrees for hours on end, even after the motion providing the energy to the VAXXWAGON had ceased.  

Ganesan, who studied with a number of college professors to help with the VAXXWAGON’s creation, has recently been named one of 20 global finalists in Google’s 2015 Science Fair. Should he win, reports Business Insider, he would receive $50,000 in scholarship money, as well as a 10-day vacation to the Galapagos Islands. And even if he doesn’t finish in first place, it’s safe to say that Ganesan’s invention, for which he is in the process of both patenting and perfecting, could very well make the difference between life and death in remote communities around the world. 

[via business insider]

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This 15-Year-Old Inventor Is Saving Lives by Revolutionizing the Way We Move Vaccines