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Phloton has been developed for the remotest, most extreme geographies of not only India but the entire developing world

Enhanced Innovations, a company backed by BIRAC-KIIT Bhubaneswar and Social Alpha, has launched Phloton, a device that can address the critical issue of vaccine wastage and improve last-mile healthcare delivery. Ankita Mittal, CEO, Enhanced Innovations, shares more details about Phloton, and its applications and impact on immunisation, medication and diagnostics delivery, in an interview with Lakshmipriya Nair

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What is Phloton and how does it work to address the challenges faced in last-mile healthcare delivery?

 Phloton is a portable, active cooling device that can be used to strengthen point-of care services for immunisation, medication and diagnostics delivery. It can help in transporting temperature sensitive vaccines, medicines and diagnostics samples safely while maintaining the required temperature. In India alone, we have 91 districts where less than 50 per cent of children are fully immunised against preventable life-threatening diseases. In addition to this, India is also home to almost four crore pregnant women and newborn children who have not been fully immunised. This is despite intense efforts by the government through far reaching and critical programs on immunisation. The situation is similar across other developing countries as well. WHO estimates say that globally, 50 per cent of all temperature sensitive vaccines manufactured go to waste. 

There are many reasons that have contributed to this landscape, and two important factors are insufficient lastmile cold chain capacity and inadequate temperature monitoring. These gaps lead to vaccine spoilage leading to women and children getting no or ineffective immunisation. Phloton has been developed to address these critical gaps by ensuring temperature sensitive vaccines are stored and transported safely while maintaining the required temperature. The Phloton device itself is designed to be easy to handle for frontline health care providers.

How does Phloton differentiate itself from existing solutions/services in the market?

Phloton is an active cooling solution which makes it more effective and reliable as a cold chain solution for vaccines, medication and diagnostics storage and transportation. An example of this differentiation is that at an ambient temperature of 35 deg Celsius, the ice-packs that are traditionally used to store and transport vaccines, lose 50 per cent of their coldness within 60 minutes. This makes them an unreliable storage mechanism for temperature sensitive vaccines, medicines and diagnostics. Through Phloton, we are able to address these problems by maintaining a chamber temperature of 4 deg Celsius or lower in ambient temperatures ranging between -20 deg Celsius and 65 deg Celsius for at least 10 hours, depending on the ambient temperature. The device is currently equipped to carry up to 60 vials in its 2 litre chamber which can be scaled up to 50 litres. This makes its application to all aspects of the healthcare cold chain easy – especially with its simple plug and play modality

What are the technologies or innovations that Phloton uses to address the issue of vaccine potency loss during transportation and storage?

Phloton relies on active cooling to maintain temperatures and as a result, vaccine potency. Other key innovative features of the Phloton system are highlighted here: 

◆ Phloton uses IoT/AI-ML to improve system performance with real time updates to improve battery efficiency – its centralised cloud based repository ensures that every vaccine vial is delivered with no loss to efficacy due to last mile cold chain gaps, which we know contributes to greater than 50 per cent vaccine losses.

 ◆ Phloton utilises a high performance insulating material with lowest thermal resistance to isolate the vaccine chamber from conduction, convection and radiation based heating. 

◆ An example of this is that Phloton is designed to keep vials/bottles at a very precise temperature. The insulation system in Phloton is effective enough to maintain its chamber temperature for an extra 4 hours after the cooling system shuts down, before the inside temperature gets above 8°C. This is the threshold safe temperature after which vaccines start losing their efficacy at an exponential rate. 

◆ Phloton has been developed for the remotest, most extreme geographies of not only India but the entire developing world – designed to reduce the burden on the existing ecosystem in such low resource settings. Phloton has an integrated solar panel module which can easily charge the Phloton device in the absence of grid power – ensuring that the device does not solely rely on external or non-renewable power sources. 

◆ In addition to the solar panels, Phloton also offers a high positive environmental impact as the device system does not use any refrigerants which are currently used to cool ice packs. These refrigerants contribute 2000 times more to global warming as compared to carbon dioxide.

◆ Phloton system is already in touch with several drone manufacturing organisations for transport of biologics through air.

What is the role of BIRACKIIT Bhubaneswar and Social Alpha in supporting and backing in this venture? Any plans for future investment rounds to support the growth and expansion of Enhanced Innovations and Phloton?

◆ Social Alpha was the first to support our vision to build a robust last mile cold chain using green technology. We have leveraged Social Alpha’s network of engineering and academic support to develop the Phloton prototype. 

◆ KIIT-TBI supported our vision for Phloton by giving us the opportunity to apply for schemes such as MEITY TIDE and BIRAC SEED. There is an intent to further the development and utilisation of Phloton through investments in the future. Our product is uniquely positioned to attract institutional investors with deep impact in the pharma sector, where two-third of all new therapeutic interventions have biologics or active ingredients which require cold chain transportation. Even the Universal Immunisation Program is expanding to increase vaccines from the mandated 11 interventions to more in the coming future for example HPV, HEP-B etc. – and Phloton is an apt partner for this expansion.

Can you share any successful case studies that showcase the effectiveness of Phloton’s services? 

◆ We have worked with several foundations such as Selco to support animal vaccination programs. 

◆ Additionally, Phloton was tested by the Akshaykalpa Foundation in Karnataka to address animal vaccine spoilage – it proved effective in maintaining vaccine temperatures in a real-world deployment scenario. 

◆ FaunaTech Solutions is a quantitative milk assessment company – they deployed Phloton to safely transport milk samples for assessment. The company reported a positive experience with Phloton in Bangalore Rural’s milk cooperatives with Phloton demonstrating efficiency in sample collection and reliable temperature control, which is vital for accurate analysis. 

◆ Other Phloton active deployment case studies are currently ongoing at URMUL (Rajasthan), NDRI (Haryana), Vivekananda Youth Movement Hospital (Karnataka) and KRYSPR (Karnataka)

What partnerships or collaborations are in the offing to scale and expand the reach of Phloton’s services? 

◆ Phloton is working with veterinary institutes to transport vaccines and blood samples to mitigate the spread of infection borne diseases. 

◆ Phloton has received working orders from several hospitals across India including a leading eye care chain in West Bengal to transport critical biologics across their hospital network. 

 

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