In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, destroying its power grid and leaving residents to face months without power. Without electricity, diabetics couldn't keep their insulin refrigerated. Ice was extremely scarce, accessible only to those with gas-powered generators. Many patients used spoiled insulin and suffered irreversible damage to their health.
The life-altering events Puerto Ricans experienced after the hurricane inspired Insu Health Design’s founders to ensure the safety of bio-medicine users on the island and abroad.
The project started as a collaboration among students from the University of Puerto Rico and the University of Houston. Together they sought an effective solution for bio-medicine storage in times of disaster, power outage, travel and everyday transportation. As a result, the startup created Insu Portable, a battery-operated cooling system capable of maintaining insulin, vaccines and other bio-meds at their required temperatures for long periods of times (days to weeks) and offering multiple re-charging options.
At present, Insu Health Design is performing research and development to optimize the device (it already has a functional prototype), conduct field tests, run a pilot program and manufacture the device to reach market in 2022.
A healthy value proposition
During the customer discovery and research process, Insu Health Design found that bio-medicine users rely primarily on ice packs to preserve their medication for daily transportation, travel and power outages. Ice is an inadequate solution for bio-meds that must be kept at specific and constant temperatures.
Cooling devices currently available in the market provide about 12 hours of battery life, offer only one charging option (electric outlet) and cost an average of $250. Insu Portable has a potential battery life of up to 168 hours, multiple charging options (such as electric outlet, USB port and solar energy) and a retail price of about $300, which may be reimbursed by health insurance.
A much-needed product
There are more than 100 million bio-medicine users in the world, 5.5 million of them in the U.S. Insu Health's immediate target market is bio-medicine (mainly insulin) users in Puerto Rico and Texas, where there are 704,000 and 94,000 insulin users, respectively.
Insu Health's technology addresses three customer segments:
- Direct users who need to store and preserve insulin without electricity and monitor temperature in real time.
- Medical insurance providers seeking to reduce spending on replacement of spoiled medication.
- Disaster relief and nonprofit organizations trying to fortify cold-chain transportation services, fill gaps between donation and patient delivery, and reduce spending on replacing spoiled medication.
A challenging journey
Insu Health must overcome some challenges to serve each of its customer segments. It must find productive ways to make the device accessible to patients, navigate insurance reimbursement pathways, and establish strong links with key organizations.
In addition to research and development, the company considering setting up a partnership with the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, opening internship positions for students, working with an incubator, and collaborating with Mayagüez's Bioprocess Development and Training Complex.
Rising Entrepreneurs Program Experience
The Bravo Family Foundation's Rising Entrepreneurs Program gave Insu Health Design valuable knowledge and tools to help the startup reach market, including how to establish clear objectives, raise additional funds, register intellectual property, develop a marketing plan and manufacture specific components. The program also provided access to industry experts and mentors, opportunities for collaboration and connections in the southwest region.
"The program has been a key part in the development and optimization of our technology, allowing us to test its components and efficiency and compare it other technology in the market".Doris Candelaria, Insu Health co-founder
Candelaria wasn't a born entrepreneur. She was inspired to become one by drastic circumstances.
"I didn't plan to be an entrepreneur, but now I can't imagine doing anything else than social entrepreneurship".Doris Candelaria, Insu Health co-founder
"Hurricane Maria gave me an entirely new perspective on how we should become the change we wish to see and the possibility of overcoming huge challenges. Being an entrepreneur is far from easy, but it gives me the satisfaction of creating a positive change that no other job can give me."