When Zach Friedman was hired on as Director of Vaccination and Immunization at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies, his first project was not a small one. He immediately jumped in to developing the “50 Breakthroughs” report. As he described, it the report was “a study that identified high-impact scientific and technological breakthroughs required for global sustainable development.”
“We took a problem-oriented approach,” Zach said, “starting with high level issues like global health and digital inclusion, and unpacked those issues to identify the major underlying drivers and then identify where new breakthroughs were or were not a critical part of the solution.” With the belief that the number of truly transformative technologies is much more than just a handful, the report set about discovering what those were – not just the big, buzzworthy, of-the-moment ideas, but the ones that are game-changing, scalable, and can make a substantial and long-lasting impact in developing countries. Completed in 2014, the full study took over two years to conduct and has since been used by major funding entities like USAID and the Lemelson Foundation to help guide their strategy.
Managing such a large undertaking drew on Zach’s prior private sector experience, as well as his time at Haas. While the classes were an essential part of his ability to succeed, Zach found the experiential courses and extracurricular experiences also had a great impact. “Being a team lead in Social Sector Solutions or working with a small mobile payments startup in Kenya” became incredibly relevant after receiving his MBA. “Classes formed a great foundation, but it was the experiences outside of the classroom that have been the most directly relevant. Having a network of colleagues in the sector has been extremely valuable.” It was while visiting a fellow Haas alum earlier this year that Zach was reminded of the importance of first-hand experiential knowledge in taking the first step to solve global health issues.
In making vaccines available in developing countries, it was not always about access to affordable medicine and doctors, but logistical storage and transport in even major cities of mid-sized countries that becomes the issue. Zach noticed that vaccines were being stored at incorrect temperatures or transported with too-cold ice packs pulled straight from the freezer, which was just as detrimental to vaccines as too much heat. Underlying technical issues were impeding the steps to international development.
“The current approach is heavily reliant on user training and behavior. We are developing a carrier that eliminates the risk of vaccines freezing in this scenario. Health care workers would be able to insert ice packs immediately upon removal from a freezer, and there would be no risk to the vaccines. For decades the big challenge has been ‘how do we keep vaccines from getting too hot?’ It’s only as we have been getting better at this, largely through solar refrigeration, and as our temperature monitoring technology has improved that freezing has begun to emerge as a major challenge.”
In addition to his work on vaccine delivery, Zach is also working on a project with the Rockefeller Foundation. This project’s aim, he says, is to “identify lower-cost ways to provide electricity to villages in rural India. This includes looking at opportunities to both de-cost elements of existing mini-grids, re-envisioning the mini-grid on a smaller scale, and also developing low-cost, energy-efficient appliances.” Taking advantage of Lawrence Berkeley Lab’s stores of IP and expertise, Zach and LIGTT hope that these breakthroughs in technology will help directly address the global challenges.
Learn more about LIGTT at www.ligtt.org.
Read the “50 Breakthroughs” report.
Read an article about the Report by LIGTT Executive Director, Shashi Buluswar, here.