One of ISTAR‘s premier projects is known as Energize the Chain (EtC) (www.energizethechain.org). EtC’s core mission is to extend the vaccination cold chain systems in developing countries, especially in rural areas with limited access to reliable electricity. EtC’s key insight is to take advantage of the ubiquity of cell phone towers in rural areas to provide a reliable source of power for vaccine refrigeration systems. This simple measure will help to store vaccines longer and in safer conditions, and will help to improve vaccine integrity and reduce costs in the cold chain. This addresses an immediate and unmet need to help the 2.5 million children who die each year from vaccine preventable deaths. EtC is a simple but revolutionary idea with immense local appeal, especially in countries with highly developed telecommunications markets but limited public health infrastructure.
As of April 2012, in collaboration with our pioneering partner, Econet Wireless, children are being immunized with viable vaccines securely stored at ten Econet/EtC pilot sites in Chikombedzi district, Zimbabwe. A wonderful review of our program was published in the New Scientist (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21428665.800-power-from-cellphone-towers-keeps-vaccines-cool.html). Additionally, in June 2012 we were featured on the BBC World Service Newshour, which you can listen to here, starting at 38:53: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/p00s9jn9. Finally, we are proud to report the Philadelphia Business Journal recently awarded EtC the “Life Sciences Awards: Best Research Institute Innovation” for 2012 (http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/print-edition/2012/10/05/Best_innovation.html).
Please see this amazing video about the success of Econet and Energize the Chain in delivering much needed vaccines to remote parts of Zimbabwe- (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vGCS9n_Pjs&list=UUrMWdAO1TzGqj03tlL0S4JA&index=1)