MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2018

New Mexico entrepreneur works with Sandia on vaccine-saving cooler

Sandia National Laboratories said on March 25 that it is working with SAVSU Technologies to deliver life-saving, temperature-sensitive vaccines to remote portions of the globe.

SAVSU President Bruce McCormick said 17 percent to 39 percent of all vaccines are improperly stored and killed as a result of exposure to freezing temperatures. Other vaccines degrade in warm temperatures.

McCormick developed a solar thermal icemaker to be used in shipping containers to maintain temperatures that are healthy for vaccines.

"If you have a cooler that can keep the vaccine alive for 24 hours, that's how long you have to load, bring it to the village, community or health care center and administer," McCormick said. "As a result there are complicated logistics in moving the vaccines from, for example, a national distribution facility where they have reliable electricity to a remote clinic. But they have to get there. It's referred to as the last mile."

McCormick developed the cooler through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program, and thousands of coolers now are used across the globe.

Through the NMSBA, McCormick connected with former Sandia engineer Brian Iverson, who discovered an old version of the cooler at Sandia. The pair worked to redesign the technology, and added Sandia physical chemist Eric Coker to the project.

"Brian did the engineering and I took his recommendations and applied chemical knowledge to fill in the design gaps," Coker said. "I researched what materials would make it work at the scale Bruce needed. It had to be portable and completely off grid with the only inputs being sunlight and water."

The cooler operates using the refrigeration cycle and is completely off the grid.

"We've seen it work," McCormick said. "The purpose of the boxes is to assure that vaccines are available at the community level when outbreaks occur. The NanoQ coupled with the solar thermal icemaker is a game changer in how vaccines are stored and distributed in developing countries."