Photo: Katrine Buur Olesen

We want to make a difference

Tuesday 30 Sep 14
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Further imformation

Adam Hartmann, adam@eupry.com

 

What started out as a BSc project a few years ago has now developed into a company attracting international attention in partnership with UNICEF and the Clinton Health Access Initiative.

By Tine Kortenbach

Every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) spends USD 1 billion on vaccination programmes in developing countries. In some countries, however, it is estimated that up to half the aid is lost. Most vaccines have to be stored at specific temperatures, and they must be kept cool all the way from producer to patient.

UNICEF, the UN emergency aid organization for children, contacted DTU in its search for a solution. The project originally started out as a BSc project at DTU Mechanical Engineering, with Assistant Professor Ali Gürcan Özkil as supervisor. The task was to develop a system that could cheaply and efficiently monitor the refrigerators where the vaccines are stored. Since then, the team of seven students has founded the company Eupry, which is currently running a major pilot project in Nigeria, where 30–40 of its units are being tested in collaboration with UNICEF and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, part of the Clinton Foundation.

“We have developed a system that uses a very simple method to transfer information from remotely located refrigeration facilities to a central hub, where you can monitor the data and react if necessary,” relates Adam Hartmann, who is taking an MSc Eng in design and innovation.

“In practice, the system consists of a small box with a display that shows whether the temperature is OK. At the same time, it reveals how often the staff enter the refrigerated area to check the vaccines, and presents a variety of other information. Data about the condition of the vaccines are transferred to the internet via the mobile phone network (GSM). Another smart aspect of the system is that it is simple to install, so local workers can do the work without having to call in travelling fitters to help.”  

 Photo: Katrine Buur Olesen  

 

Most vaccines have to be kept cool at all times to ensure they are still effective when they reach the patients.

This can be quite a challenge for the healthcare centres in developing countries.

Systems for monitoring refrigeration are far from unknown. In western society they are primarily used in refrigerated containers for foods. Conditions in developing countries are different, however, as are the users. Adam Hartmann considers it a difficult market to penetrate because it is completely new. In parallel with the invention, the students have therefore developed solutions for measuring humidity levels in grain on the European market.

“We are ambitious and focused. The only way we know is forward. Basically, we’re a group of geeks hungry to invent and deliver products that can make a difference,” he continues.

“We originally met in DTU Skylab and DTU AppGarage (a student-run community devoted to developing apps—ed.) These are places you go because you want to challenge your creative talents, because they have good workshops, and because they have strong links to the business community. We can sit there and work all night when we have a lot to do. The mentality is unique, and the people there are just so cool ...”

Article from DYNAMO no. 38, DTU's quarterly magazine.