The origin point of this project was a clinic where Asel Sartbaeva took her daughter for vaccination. She saw how the vaccines had to be removed from refrigerators and used immediately. This sparked her to find a solution to this problem and ended up making vaccines that are stable at room temperature. She recently spoke about these vaccines at the Solve For X Talk Thermally Stable Vaccines and discussed the idea, inspiration, development, and progress till date in this project.
Almost 2.5 million kids across the world lose their lives annually by being devoid of vaccines for those avoidable diseases on time. All these kids belong to the age group of 0-5 years, it is one of the major problems that need to be solved by delivering vaccines to patients. Around 40 percent of vaccines get wasted or damaged during the last stage of their delivery. These go through a rigorous stage of manufacturing, shipping, customs, and final delivery before reaching their subject. Vaccines mostly need refrigeration 24 x 7. In developing nations where corruption, power shortage, traffic, and infrastructure shortage are rampant , a patient might not be able to avail the vaccine on time in a stable form. In many of these places, the vaccines reach their destination in cold boxes on camels, horses, mules, as well as humans.
The basic idea that worked in this direction for Sartbaeva is that the vaccines are protein-based formulas. There are a number of structures that are built around these vaccines to aid in delivery, however, all these barriers fall apart at room temperature. She compares this phenomenon with the boiling of eggs when the tightly packed eggs unwrap themselves and take up more space until they get solidified. Asel is using silica to make a cage structure around vaccines that can prevent their denaturations. Silica is abundant in nature and can be obtained easily for less price.
The project is yet to complete and she is currently working at the University of Bath on this project. She was recently named as one of the most renowned 175 faces of Chemistry by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
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