William Broadway, university student and inventor of the Isobar.
What inspired you to develop the Isobar?
'I went on a surfing trip and went five days without electricity. To keep food fresh, we went through 13 kilograms of ice! I realised that on this holiday, we were in a situation that a lot of communities are in. When I got home, I researched every kind of refrigeration that I could find to figure out the best methods to cool things in other ways.'
Why support vaccine delivery?
'In the western world we think that the vaccine problem is solved and all we need is more vaccines. A lot of issues about vaccinations are actually about vaccine delivery. Vaccines are also getting expensive. Right now, they cost about $2 per dose, but that will double by 2020. The Isobar can help bring down costs through easier transport. Each kit stores enough doses of vaccine for 800 people.'
How does the Isobar work?
'Chemicals inside the device create a reaction to keep the inside cool. In 1929, an invention called the Icy Ball used an idea patented by Einstein and did exactly what I was looking for: you heat it for an hour with a flame, and then a chemical process keeps it cold for 24 hours. It’s the basis for fridges in caravans. This is something I could adapt with modern materials as a new fridge device. '
What makes this device unique?
'It was specifically designed as part of a system of vaccine delivery and maintains stable temperature control. When using a cooler with ice and water, there’s no control over temperature, and if vaccines go below 2 degrees, that can cost potency. This device gives that control. It can also be recharged multiple times on the go using a propane stove. '
What were the biggest challenges to the Isobar’s development?
'I wanted it to be small for a person to carry, but large enough to provide vaccines for a whole community. It also had to be an efficient design. It was tricky shrinking the technology so it could fit inside a backpack and be carried around. At its very core, I also had to make sure that this was the best solution. '
Where does it go from here?
'I’m building more prototypes for testing in central Africa along with the World Health Organisation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I’m doing more research too, understanding these kinds of fridges. I have to keep asking the question if this really is the best thing to address a serious issue. There’s still a long road ahead, I just want a good outcome for vaccine delivery.'