For 4c, effective design means enabling our clients to achieve business goals they wouldn’t have reached otherwise. Our Barbervax project is a great example: as our client, Dr David Smith says:

“When we started this project we didn’t know if it could be done. 4c have designed practical machines that have enabled the creation of a new international business.”

Barber’s Pole worm is a parasitic nematode that infects the gut of sheep and goats in hot, humid climates. For farmers in such regions an infestation can be economically devastating as these blood-sucking, treatment resistant parasites spread quickly causing anaemia and ultimately death of entire flocks.

After 20 years of research, Dr David Smith’s team of veterinary scientists at Edinburgh’s Moredun Research Institute had developed the first vaccine for the Barber’s Pole worm. Making the vaccine involves grinding up worms taken from the stomachs of dead sheep. Although the process was successful at lab-scale, to be commercially viable a production process and equipment needed to be designed which could operate at the same rate as Australian abattoirs. No equipment capable of the task was available and a bespoke solution was required. We were engaged by Dr Smith to design and build a commercial production system that could scale the harvesting of the worms and bottle the vaccine in a reliable, cost-effective and semi-automated way.

Our design process led to three separate production machines. Invented, developed and built in our workshop, then shipped to our client’s site in Australia where we installed and commissioned the machines. When Barbervax® (the Barber’s Pole worm vaccine) was launched in Australia in 2014 the 300,000 dose production run was a sell-out success. Since then, production has grown rapidly to 2.5m doses in 2017-18, all produced by the machines we designed and built.

Seeing their research make an impact in the real world remains an un-fulfilled dream for many academic researchers. We are proud of enabling Dr Smith to realise his dream of producing Barbervax® at commercial scale and making it available to farmers to protect their sheep and livelihood. Dr Smith and his colleagues at the Moredun Research Institute, have set up a new business, Wormvax, to produce Barbervax®. Wormvax now employ 8 people and have launched the vaccine in Australia and South Africa with other markets planned.

Wormvax are now saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Australian sheep, and the livelihoods of Australian farmers. Over 500,000 sheep were protected from the deadly Barber’s Pole parasite last year with production planned to increase year on year. Effective design at work!

But don’t just take our word for it. We’re delighted that this project has been recognised by an independent expert panel of Design Business Association judges and awarded a Design Effectiveness Award. This realises a long-held ambition of 4c’s founder, Robin – so doubly effective design!