Vaccine Design Challenge

Accelerating Scaled Vaccine Production to Meet a Pandemic Response


Elmer Gaden, “the father of bioprocess engineering,”  pioneered deep tank fermentation of mold for the industrial production of penicillin, ushering in the modern-day bioprocess industry, and providing broad access to antibiotics in WWII and beyond.  Today, we are faced with a similar scale-up and access challenge with respect to vaccines and pandemics.  In ordinary times, the production of and distribution of vaccines presents many technical and logistical challenges. Responding to worldwide pandemics such as COVID-19  with a vaccine presents additional complexity, not only concerning safety and efficacy vis a vis novelty and speed, but also with respect to access, manufacturability, and resources.


The objective of this challenge is to improve the speed of manufacture and the access to vital vaccines that will help curtail disease outbreaks and mitigate social and economic disruptions.

Project Goal

Your goal is to design an essential element of vaccine manufacture and/or distribution from a palette of curated options enabling improved speed and access.

Problem Definition & Specifications

Design examples currently being considered included micro-scale (on a chip/microfluidic/mRNA),  point of care benchtop based systems, as well as plant based production technology.  Students will learn the current state of the art of vaccine production, as well as about the landscape of vaccine production and design, through this workshop design challenge. 

An option to consider would be to develop a table-top manufacturing process of vaccine production where the vaccine can be produced at the point-of-care, similar to what has been imagined for closed “GMP-in-a-box” benchtop systems for antibody or CAR-T cell therapies.  For example, a benchtop based mRNA synthesizer with concomitant formulation.


Your efforts will be judged according to:

  • Thoroughness;
  • Creativity;
  • Technical Depth;
  • Flexibility and Robustness; and,
  • Readiness to deploy in a short timeframe.