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14 Smart Inventions Inspired by Nature: Biomimicry

By Amelia Hennighausen and Eric Roston - 2013-08-19T12:01:13Z

Photographs by Jan Van Arkel/Corbis; Courtesy Nova Laboratories Ltd

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'Candy-Coated Vaccines'

Nature can’t make the dead come back to life, but it can re-animate the seemingly dead. Tardigrades, which are millimeter-long cousins of arthropods, can dry out for up to 120 years. A process called anhydrobiosis protects the critter’s chemical machinery — DNA, RNA and proteins — until water revives them.

Biomatrica, a San Diego company, adapted that process into a product that protects live vaccines so that they no longer need to be refrigerated — half of vaccines are lost to breaks in refrigeration during transportation or treatment. Biomatrica’s chemical barrier "shrink-wraps" the vaccine until it can be reanimated with water.

Nova Laboratories, in Leicester, England, developed technology that secures vaccines "in a glassy film made of sugars," according to a 2010 journal article about the company’s "candy-coated vaccines." The coating keeps the virus effective for six months at temperatures up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit — helpful for vaccinating vulnerable populations in tropical countries.

A Dumb Question about biomimicry.

Read more Energy & Sustainability news.

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