Dr Asel Sartbaeva from the Department of Chemistry has won the Biotechnology Award at the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Global Awards 2017 for her work on a new way to keep vaccines safe without refrigeration.

Dr Sartbaeva and colleagues have developed a way to encase vaccines in silica to stop them spoiling. At the moment many vaccines will go off and become unusable, ineffective or even toxic unless they are kept refrigerated.

Encasing them in silica prevents this, and could save millions of lives around the world and save healthcare costs from needing to keep vaccines in an expensive “cold chain”. They call their method "ensilication".

Dr Sartbaeva said: “It is a great honour to receive this award. I am very touched and happy. My group have worked very hard to develop this process. I would like to mention my students Yun-Chu Chen and Aswin Doekhie especially who have been working on the enislication project. Also I would like to express my gratitude to Prof. Jean van den Elsen and Dr. Francouse Koumanov who have been involved from the beginning of this project.”

The awards evening was held in Birmingham and featured more than 140 entries from 21 countries.

IChemE’s President John McGagh said: “I have always been proud to call myself a Chemical Engineer, and since becoming President of this Institution it has been my privilege to see ever more fantastic work of our professional community.

“IChemE exists because chemical engineering matters. Tonight’s programme is an insight into what this really means. Chemical engineers are working in many different industry sectors and areas of research all over the world. The breadth of our work is illustrated by some of IChemE’s core themes – energy, food and nutrition, water, safety, health and wellbeing. These are things that matter to everyone on this planet, and we can be rightly proud of the contribution we make.”

The IChemE Global Awards, held in partnership with Johnson Matthey and Wood, celebrate and recognise excellence in chemical engineering worldwide.