Nanotech "Jackets" to Keep Vaccines From Spoiling Off-Grid

Vaccines need to be chilled to work. Student start-up Nanoly is developing nanotechnology to preserve them in communities without electricity.

Every year, 2.1 million people die from vaccine-preventable disease—and it’s no mystery why a good number go without the immunizations that could save lives. Many live off-grid without electricity—and no refrigerators to keep vaccines cold in clinics. Without being chilled between 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit (2-8 degrees Celsius), vaccines spoil and become inactive.

For want of temperature control, people are put at risk of disease and death.

It’s a macro-level problem, but a group of students have discovered a solution on the molecular level. Rather than jerry-rigging the supply "cold chain"—finding work-arounds for transportation or building alternatively-powered refrigeration—students from U.C. Berkley, Duke, University of Colorado at Boulder, Johns Hopkins and Stanford founded Nanoly, a company adapting a hydrogel polymer to protect vaccines from changes in temperature.

Here’s how it works: the polymer mixes with the vaccine, surrounds it and acts as a heat stabilizer. Nanoly’s Nanxi Lui puts it more simply, "It’s like a jacket. It covers the vaccine’s proteins and protects it from heat."

Once surrounded by the polymer, a vaccine can survive at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 30 days. Conceivably, a doctor would be able to inject vaccines with the polymer at a field clinic, transport them over many days to a remote area and then use Nanoly’s unique (and patent-pending) release method to activate the vaccine. That part is essentially like taking off the vaccine's protective polymer jacket.

Nanoly’s inject-protect-and-go method stands to make a huge impact. Twenty-six million children in the world aren't vaccinated, and according to UNICEF figures, 68 percent of them live in countries where weak immunization structures are caused in part by how difficult it is to effectively transport vaccines.

Nanoly’s technology has swept award ceremonies (taking honors from university entrepreneurship competitions, Dell’s Social Innovation Challenge and even a Top 10 ranking from NASA and Space Frontier Foundation). From competitions alone, they’ve raised almost $100,000 of the total $1.5 million they need to complete the research process.

Already, though, they are building a partnership with PATH, among the largest innovation and vaccine-focused global nonprofits, and one that also partners with the World Health Organization and UNICEF in vaccine access and delivery. Those global bodies are the end-point customer Nanoly hopes to one day serve.

Image courtesy of Nanoly

via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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