Scaling up laboratory work flow to commercial volume production.

Moredun Research Institute | Barbervax

If you are a sheep farmer like John Chappel, a third generation merino wool farmer, in hot, humid Western Australia, the term ‘Barber’s Pole Worm’ will send shivers down your spine. The blood-sucking, treatment-resistant parasite infects the guts of sheep causing anaemia and death. The worm spreads quickly, wipes out flocks and destroys businesses.

After 20 years of research, Dr. Smith’s team of veterinary scientists at Edinburgh’s Moredun Research Institute developed a new method to create a Barber’s Pole worm vaccine, which involved grinding up worms taken from dead sheep’s stomachs. Although the process worked in the lab, to be commercially viable it needed to operate at the same rate as Australian abattoirs – 400 stomachs per hour.

4c was tasked with developing a system that could harvest worms for the creation of the vaccine (Barbervax), then bottle that vaccine in a reliable, cost-effective and semi-automated way.

John Chappel (middle-left)

The Solution

After breaking down the challenge, we identified 3 machines that were needed. One to cut the stomachs up, one to harvest the worms and one to bottle the end product.

Using iterative design, prototyping and testing in our workshop, we solved many of the technical challenges – fast.

For instance, after prototyping with bath tubs, gin & tonic bottles and washing machines, we discovered that a modified cement mixer solved the challenge of extracting worms from the cut up sheep stomachs.

Our prototypes were crude, but they quickly proved the concept and through continued close collaboration with the researchers at Moredun, we created functional solutions for the three different machines required. Once happy with the rough prototype machines, we refined our designs incorporating safety features, IP65 rating and minimal maintenance requirements. We even developed smart monitoring and control systems for semi-automatic operation. The final production machines were built in our workshop, shipped to Australia and installed by our team.

Barbervax was ready.

Capabilities Utilised

  • Design Thinking
  • Innovation Sprints (find out more)
  • Rapid Prototyping
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Aided Design
  • Mechatronic Engineering
  • Electrical & Control System Engineering
  • Product Testing
  • Manufacturing Management
learn about our other capabilitieswhat is mechatronic engineering?

Value Generated

All 80,000 doses of Barbervax (the Barber’s Pole worm vaccine) were sold out in the first year (2014). Since then, production has tripled year-on-year to over two million doses. All of the doses are still produced using the machines designed and built by 4c. Barbervax has since opened subsidiaries in the UK, Australia and South Africa with ambitions to expand into European and South American markets.

As for John Chappel, he’s still in business. A couple of years after the Barbervax Project, Dr. Smith and members of the 4c team visited Western Australia where they met John. He shook their hands and thanked them for creating a product that quite simply saved his farm for future generations.

Award Winning

This project led to winning a Design Business Association (DBA) Design Effectiveness Award for both Moredun Research Institute and 4c.

"When we started this project - we didn't know it could be done. 4c has not only commercialised our research but enabled a new international market to be built."

Dr. David Smith - Moredun Research Institute
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