QuickHit: Understanding the Covid Vaccine Supply Chain
Blue Maestro co-founder Kirstin Hancock joined us this week on QuickHit to explain the sensitivities around transporting the Covid vaccines. How vaccine manufacturers are adjusting to the special handling requirements, and how technology helps make sure that these are delivered in perfect condition?
Kirstin is the co-founder of Blue Maestro, which was set up eight years ago. Blue Maestro designs and manufactures Bluetooth sensors and data loggers. These are very small devices that have a PCB chip in them that use Bluetooth technology to communicate with smartphones to measure variations of the environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, etc.
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This QuickHit episode was recorded on December 11, 2020.
The views and opinions expressed in this QuickHit episode are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any content provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
TN: Great. Okay. That sounds really interesting and I’ve been looking at you guys for a long time and what I’m really interested initially to talk about as we look at the environment with Covid and a number of other things happening this week and next week, I’d really like to understand what you’re seeing around the vaccine supply chains because I know you guys do some work there and I know it’s critical to see your types of products in those supply chains. Otherwise, we don’t get live vaccine, right? So, can you talk to us about a little bit of the work that you’re doing there?
KH: One of the criteria for the CDC is that sensors and data loggers are able to measure temperature in real time and that this is able to be recorded over a period of time and that maximum and minimum temperatures can be seen throughout the time. Our sensors and data loggers are all unique.
They have a unique MAC ID address on them and they can be named, and logging intervals can be set at specific intervals. So, within the storage and transportation of vaccine, Tempo Disc in particular, is a really useful tool because it does all of these things. Now, we have actually been using Tempo Disc in a number of different countries to transport vaccines already.
We’ve been working with the UN this year, 2020, to deliver vaccines in developing countries in Africa through a project that they’ve been working on and that’s been very successful.
TN: Very good. So, what are the considerations like how long are these things usually in transport? I mean, what variability are… are there huge temperature swing variabilities? Are there huge… What are the kinds of things that the vaccine makers are really worried about because this seems like a really delicate supply chain?
KH: What vaccine makers are really concerned about is that the vaccines go out of their temperature range. Now, using our app for Tempo Plus 2, you can see real-time data. So, you can see exactly what the temperature is of the container that the vaccines are being put in and that’s generally what our users are doing.
They’re using Tempo Disc in the containers and they’re labeling them according to that batch of vaccines and that’s really important so that they’ve got the traceability from when they go from the manufacture of the vaccine right out to the pharmacies, the nurses, the clinics where these vaccines are administered. And I think that’s probably the number one concern that these vaccines go out of temperature range because when they do, there is an emergency procedure that goes into place and basically, all of the vaccines have to be disposed of.
TN: Interesting. Okay. I really wanted to talk to you because with all of the talk of this distribution, I know this is probably something that there’s not a lot of thought from kind of your average consumer. But it’s such an important part of what’s happening here that I wanted to get some understanding of that. So, can you also tell me or help me understand… Blue Maestro does a lot of other work around healthcare and we’re an artificial intelligence company, we use a huge amount of data. You guys are an IoT company. You do the same. So outside of the vaccine supply chain, how are people using your products around health care and life sciences?
KH: We have a number of different use cases for Tempo Disc in a number of different healthcare applications. We work with a number of different US companies to monitor specific environmental conditions and I’ll just give you a couple of examples. We’re working with Boston O&P Orthopedics and Prosthetics to develop a solution where Tempo Disc is used in prosthetics to monitor how long people are wearing their prosthetics.
We also work with a company called GoGoband on a device that monitors when children or people with disabilities have wet themselves at nighttime because then their parents can get alerted. So, there’s a variation. We work with some international companies to actually monitor and record the pharmaceutical equipment that they have throughout the factory and then for its transportation to particular pharmacies within a number of different countries.
TN: Interesting. So, with the pharmacy activity, I mean that’s very precise manufacturing processes. As we get more into say precision manufacturing, how are manufacturers using your devices to understand precision around their manufacturing processes? Because again, as we have more sophisticated products, manufacturers have to know this stuff. It reduces defects. But it also creates ultimately better products for customers. So, can you help us understand a little bit about that?
KH: So, we issue conformity certificates and calibration certificates. They’re a little bit different. But basically, what they do is they track the PCB devices from the very start of the manufacturing process. So then when they’re programmed by our team, we have each device has a unique ID so that particular device can be tracked right from its manufacturing cycle right to its end user.
Now this is really important for traceability within the supply chain because the end user knows exactly which product they’re using for what purpose. So, if they’re looking at just temperature, they can have an ID that they can trace all the way through. And this ID is, it’s embedded in the electronics firmware. But then the end user can also change this so they can give it its own name.
So, if you’ve got a vaccine batch, then you can give it that idea of the vaccine batch. But then you can trace it right back. Now, our calibration certificates are two-point temperature calibration certificates. They’re very accurate. Our devices use a product called si7020 silicon labs sensor. It’s one of the most accurate on the market. Its accuracy is 0.3 percent and we’ve had that tested and very verified by labs and our devices are very accurate.
TN: Very interesting, Kirstin. I think we could go on for a couple hours talking about this stuff. But I just wanted to kind of get a quick overview out to people so they understand what’s happening particularly with vaccines but also with other aspects of the manufacturing supply chain. So, thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.
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