SMILE – a smart vaccine cooling system for the last-mile journey in developing countries

By Kitty Liao and Abellona U of Ideabatic, IGHI’s 2017 Student Challenges Competition winners

IdeabaticEach year, there are two to three million children who die of a vaccine-preventable disease and there are 19.4 million who are unable to receive basic immunisation. One of the main reasons behind these figures is that the carrier boxes currently used to carry vaccines during the last miles of the delivery journey are incapable of sustaining the vaccines at the required temperature range for the entire duration of the journey. This is an urgent global health issue and Ideabatic is developing a solution called SMILE— a smart last-mile cooling and delivery system to address these problems. We presented Ideabatic at the IGHI’s Student Challenges Competition in March this year and won the first prize.

The story of Ideabatic began in late 2014 when Kitty participated in the first humanitarian hackathon at CERN on a project to develop a ‘$10 inflatable fridge for field operation purposes’. There, Kitty realised that there is a big problem in the last miles of the vaccine delivery journey in the developing world. As a CERN low temperature physicist, Kitty thought that there must be a way to solve this. She continued working on this problem part-time after the hackathon. In 2015, she pitched her design to the WHO in Geneva and they offered her field testing upon the completion of the product.
IdeabaticIn early 2016, Kitty decided to work on the project full time. She set up the company named Ideabatic inspired by the thermodynamic term ‘adiabatic’. Her vision is to solve global challenges with innovation in hardware-focused engineering and to encourage scientists and engineers to work on these problems. By being a Hacker-in-Residence at Imperial College Advanced Hackspace, she was able to access the prototyping facilities for the project and she delivered the first design and prototype within two months. The system is designed intuitively to address the current last-mile cold chain issues so that no training is required to operate it in the field. It has precise temperature control to ensure the vaccine’s effectiveness and its indefinite cold life covers the typical last-mile journey of 5-7 days. It has features that eliminate vaccine wastage which is currently 20%-50% or $600 million per year.

Inspired by Kitty’s vision, Ideabatic has expanded to a team of like-minded individuals from diverse background ranging from low temperature physics, electronic engineering, mechanical engineering, medicine and finance. Ideabatic is also supported by an advisory board of different expertise from Imperial College London, University of Cambridge and NGOs.

Apart from the IGHI student challenges competition, Ideabatic has won numerous awards and recognition. In May 2016, Kitty entered Imperial College’s IP competition with the design and won a £5,000 convertible loan note for patenting SMILE. Ideabatic was selected to be one of the top 300 start-ups among 1600+ applications in the MassChallenge UK accelerator, which is one of the world’s largest accelerators for high impact start-ups. There, Ideabatic won the ViiV Healthcare Start-up Award with £25,000 equity-free cash prize. The prize awards of these competitions along with that from the IGHI Student Challenges Competition contribute towards patenting and the development of the prototypes of SMILE.

The team is now working on the third prototype and building a consortium with the academia, industries and NGOs to optimise SMILE and accelerate its launch. Ideabatic is welcoming talented individuals and collaborators who share the same passion to join the journey to spread SMILE across the world. Please get in touch if you are interested in contributing and collaborating. Together, we will reach every child however difficult the journey is.

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