Sep 21, 2021

Renergen develops device to transport Covid-19 vaccine

DURBAN – RENERGEN share price leapt by more than 8 percent on the JSE yesterday after the group announced it had developed a ground-breaking device, Renergen Cryo-Vacc, to simplify logistics of moving Covid-19 vaccines at temperatures of between -70 and -150 celsius for periods of up to 30 days.

The share price later closed at R12.92.

The emerging domestic natural gas and helium producer said its design used helium and could be kept at those temperatures without the need for a power supply.

The company has filed for the patent rights to its design and is calling on collaborators to use the design in the large-scale manufacture of these devices, to assist in the deployment of ultra-low temperature vaccines, such as the recently announced Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine must be kept at -70°C for extended periods of time.

Renergen chief executive Stefano Marani said at first the firm attempted to find a solution using liquid nitrogen given it was significantly cheaper, but it only had four days to get the payload to its destination for the same weight.

“It became very clear that for delivery into remote areas and developing economies, helium was the only solution for the Renergen Cryo-Vacc. Fortunately, given helium’s specific heat characteristics, it simplified the design substantially and will make the manufacture of the devices not only quicker, but more cost-effective,” Marani said.

The Renergen Cryo-Vacc device will be constructed of aluminium, providing durability and a long lifespan for end users.

The group said a reservoir had been built into the device, which was filled with liquid helium, the coldest liquid available globally.

“This is then boiled and released over a 30-day period to maintain the temperature at a constant level. Liquid helium is also 20 percent of the density of liquid nitrogen, making the device light enough to carry, with an overall weight of less than 20kg.”

Marani added that Renergen was proud to have developed this innovative concept, at a time when the world was seeking solutions on how to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic and defeating it would take collaboration.

“For that reason we are inviting partners with the resources to roll-out large-scale manufacture of the Renergen Cryo-Vacc and global logistics companies who are able to transport medical supplies,” he said.

The group expected the operating cost of the device to be under $0.7 a dose a day for the smallest device, depending on where the helium was sourced.

The Renergen Cryo-Vacc has been initially designed to transport a minimum of 100 doses while keeping the vaccine at the required cooling rate of -70 degrees Celsius.

The group said the device worked to transport vaccines with liquid nitrogen too, but the vaccines must reach their intended destination within four days, unless the user was willing to increase the weight by an additional 15kg, which could stretch the timeline to around 20 days, but at significantly higher air-freight costs.