Larvicide Automatic Dispenser (LAD) Team
1. Public Health Impact
In major cities of the Caribbeans and Latin America, intermittent water supplies require the use of large water tanks in nearly all residences. Although these water tanks help to guarantee a constant supply of water, these devices become breeding grounds for mosquitoes such as the Aedes aegypti and A. albopictus, vectors that transmit the Zika virus, yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya. The Aedes mosquito is also known as the “container-breeding” mosquito because it lays eggs in standing water stored in manmade containers. In water, the eggs hatch and become adult mosquitoes in about one week ("Zika, Mosquitoes and Standing Water"). As Zika virus spread through Latin America and the Caribbean, countries relying on the use of water storage devices are important targets for mosquito vector control.
Current efforts to curtail mosquito outbreaks in Brazil involve government health teams visiting neighborhoods with high rates of A. aegypti and A. albopictus to manually apply larvicide to water storage tanks. As mosquito larva takes between 7 and 10 days to develop, adequate amounts of larvicides should be added to the water reservoirs once every week to take into account water circulation in the reservoirs and the mosquito life cycle (“Mosquito Life Cycle.”). Current manual distribution do not operate at such frequency. Furthermore, media coverage in Brazil has shown how government health workers often lack an accurate measure for the amount of larvicide applied to the water tanks. This lack of precise measurements increases chances of overdosing on larvicide for those that consume the water. On the contrary, dosages below the necessary amount are not efficient, and render the applied larvicide useless.
The Larvicide Automatic Dispenser (LAD) is designed to resolve the difficulties and inefficiency of the current larvicide distribution method. The idea to create the automatic dispenser came after seeing videos in the Brazilian press showing government health teams manually applying larvicide to water tanks in neighborhoods with high rates of the Aedes mosquito ("Agentes Realizam Mutirão Contra O Aedes No Bairro Cohatrac Em São Luís."). Using automation to dispense the larvicide, LAD saves government labor costs while maintaining a consistent and safe larvicide concentration in the water storage tanks. LAD disrupts the life cycle of the mosquito and has the potential to help control mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, Chikungunya, dengue, and malaria at the same time as it reduces healthcare costs in countries affected by them. LAD is a low-cost, minimal upkeep device that can be deployed to countries in the Caribbean and Latin America for mosquito vector control.
2. Technology Innovation
The LAD device was first developed at the Zika Hack-a-thon hosted by the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Consortium of Affordable Medical Technologies, also known as CAMTech. The device will automatically keep track of water usage and distribute the appropriate amount of larvicide for half a year. The LAD device will be preloaded with larvicide and distributed to households to be installed into their water tanks. Installation consists solely of placing the LAD within the water storage tank, an easy protocol that can be followed by any health worker. The LAD will keep larvicide concentrations consistent within the water and will not need to be refilled until 6 months later as calculated for the water usage of the average household.
LAD is a purely mechanical device with no power source needed. The LAD is suspended on top of the water by buoys. A system of gears within the body of the dispenser records the change in height of the water levels within the storage tank. When water height change reaches a certain threshold, the wound-up gears are released such that a specific quantity of larvicide is released into the water. Of note, only increased water levels are recorded by the wind-up mechanism to ensure water is present in the tank before release of the larvicide. Using this system of mechanical gears and release mechanism, the LAD can accurately distribute the appropriate amount of larvicide to household water tanks. No device currently exists on the market for the automatic distribution of larvicide to water storage tanks.
3. Commercial Viability
With the funding and network connections we may receive from USAID, the team looks to refine and prototype the system. The team believes that the grant from the program would take the LAD system from functional prototype, usability and feasibility studies, to beta prototype, manufacturing, and distribution. The funding would also aid in the team’s ability to obtain a PCT patent. The team is also looking to apply to additional funding sources such as the Clinton Global Initiative Innovations Fund as well as numerous upcoming innovation challenges such as the MIT Water Innovation Prize 2017. Throughout the design process, the team looks to ensure that the manufacturing cost of the LAD system will be as low cost as possible.
Brazil, as the most hard hit country in the Zika epidemic, represents a significant market to be captured. The team intends to launch the LAD device in Brazil due to the present Zika virus epidemic. However, mosquito vector control is not just a problem limited to Brazil. Further markets in Latin America and Asia could be explored once the effectiveness of the LAD device is determined. LAD is a commercially viable product as the device can be sold to the government or to pesticide companies. There is an added incentive for pesticide companies to purchase LAD as the device can be easily bundled with their pesticide product. Our team is also looking into an alternative business model. Through the licensing model, our team can partner with local manufacturers and distributors to aid in the spread of the device.
4. Management Team
The LAD team brings together a diverse mixture of expertise in engineering, public health, and the biological sciences. We also have 3 members on our team native to Brazil. The LAD engineering team includes Paul Chang, a US-based systems engineer, Karen Cheng, a medical student with a background in bioengineering, Kara Luo, a MIT undergraduate student in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Marcelo DeCastro, an entrepreneur with experience in product development, design, and rapid prototyping. Although prototyping of LAD will be accomplished at various hackerspaces in Somerville, both Kara and Karen will be leveraging their universities’ resources in mechanical and biomedical engineering to produce and test the prototype.
The biological sciences branch of our team includes Adriano de Bernardi Schneider, Greg Linchangco, both PhD candidates in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, M. Ihsan Kaadan, a clinician with ample experience building startups in health systems and Denis Jacob Machado, a PhD student from Brazil - University of Sao Paulo, with experience in invertebrates zoology and toxicology.
Adriano Schneider, member of our group, has been involved with the Zika community worldwide and already contacted possible partners for trial testing of the device in the State of Bahia in Brazil. During the past International Zika Summit, held in Paris on April 25 and 26 of this year, Adriano approached several Brazilian Health Officials from FIOCRUZ, Anvisa and other Brazilian Institutions, with the intent of developing future partnerships that could help to introduce the product in Brazil. Dr. Gubio Soares Campos, a virologist from Federal University of Bahia, who was the first to identify the presence of Zika in Brazil and Dr. Antonio Bandeira, a medical doctor that study Infectious Diseases from the same state, demonstrated interest in our product. They offered testing our device in multiple cities of the state of Bahia, in partnership with the Bahia State Department of Health. Marcelo deCastro and Adriano Schneider been also in contact with Claudia Garcia Serpa Osorio de Castro, senior researcher and professor from the National School of Public Health Sergio Arouca, from FIOCRUZ, who already endorsed the product and is helping our group to reach the right Federal Health Officials that would have interest in the purchase of the final device.
During the Zika Hack-a-thon, the team also made valuable connections with numerous mentors from various potential partners. These include contacts at the health ministries of Panama and Jamaica, the Director of Health Initiatives at GE Foundation, the CEO of Design That Matters, and many others. These contacts will be invaluable as our team seeks to expand beyond Brazil. Connections through USAID is sought to aid in the development of an effective, sustainable business model for manufacturing and distributing the device to households initially regionally to Brazil, followed by globally to Latin America and the Caribbeans. Partnership within the USAID umbrella would also be extremely valuable in providing feedback for the system as well as in serving as a distribution channel for product and awareness.