2010 Social Innovation Fellows Rush Bartlett and Laura Stachel

Injectable drugs are a huge part of modern life, and with 16 billion injections a year, delivery system innovation is a field ripe for breakthroughs. 2010 PopTech Social Innovation Fellow Rush Bartlett’s company LyoGo has developed a completely self-contained system with the potential to revolutionize the way people are immunized.

Rush Bartlett

Bartlett explained to conference-goers on Thursday how LyoGo’s injection unit mixes and injects drugs without the need for vials or syringes; the needle is also completely covered and retracts into the unit after use, which means there is no medical waste. The delivery system is only half the battle, of course. The shipping, handling, and storage of sensitive vaccines can be a challenge, especially in developing countries. However, pharmaceutical companies have developed freeze-dried vaccines that cover a wide array of preventable disease and can be stored at room temperature, eliminating the need for refrigeration. Bartlett is working to get those drugs into his LyoGo units.

“The system is simple, it’s elegant, and pharmaceutical companies are working with us to get it into development,” he said. “We want people to reach out to their networks and help us to build relationships to get this product and others like it on the market.”

Laura Stachel

When 2010 Social Innovation Fellow Dr. Laura Stachel traveled to Nigeria in 2008 as an obstetrician on a research team studying hospitals, what she found shocked her. It wasn’t that the clinics were resource poor or that there was a shortage of health care workers, these were to be expected – no, what was truly shocking was the number of women who were dying in childbirth due to a lack of electricity.

Without reliable power, there were no lights, no reliable forms of communication, and simple preventable problems very often became life threatening. Deeply moved by what she saw, Stachel asked her solar engineer husband, Dr. Hal Aronson, to help her design a portable power source that could be deployed at rural hospitals and maybe save some lives.

Together, they founded WE CARE Solar, which designs solar-powered systems to meet essential maternity care needs. These are portable, suitcase-sized systems that are immediately operational and expandable. They are designed to power lighting and communication equipment, and small devices. The first deployment of these systems occurred in June 2009. Now, these systems have been introduced in nine countries. Most recently, the organization was asked to send solar suitcases to Haiti, where they are being used by medical relief teams and maternity clinics.

“Saving the life of a woman in childbirth means saving the fabric of society,” Stachel said from the stage Thursday.  “Ten thousand lights can touch five million people every year. This little suitcase holds a lot of sunshine.”

(Photo credit: Kris Krüg)

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