Meet Brayden Shelley, Claire Meyer, Haocheng Yu, Erik Skooglund, and Evan Kirk. These are CU Boulder students and founders of HUG Solutions, this year’s NVC Champions! HUG Solutions created PortaVax, a portable vaccine carrier that uses insulation and dry ice to keep mRNA vaccines cold. The device can hold up to 250 doses, and is designed to be low-cost, robust, and reliable in order to make vaccines more accessible in a variety of different environments.
The team is comprised of CU Boulder Mechanical Engineering students who came up with the idea during their Engineering for Social Innovation (ESI) class. The five members came together around the common goal of wanting to make an impact in the world by helping people with global healthcare access.
About HUG Solutions
The HUG Solutions team came together through their senior ESI class. At the time of ideation and project conception, information about the COVID-19 vaccine was beginning to circulate. It was clear that this new type of vaccine, mRNA, would have challenging storage requirements. The team realized that people living in rural communities, especially those with limited access to electricity, would likely have difficulty accessing the mRNA vaccine due to its ultra-low storage temperature range. The team jumped into a project to address that challenge.
Experience at CU Boulder’s New Venture Challenge
The HUG Solutions team participated in this year’s New Venture Challenge (NVC). NVC is CU Boulder's premier cross-campus entrepreneurial program and competition where participants network and collaborate with mentors to refine their business ideas and form startup teams that pitch for funding.
The team’s participation in CU Boulder’s annual NVC was due to a ESI course requirement, yet it turned into something much greater. They describe NVC as an amazing opportunity for students to come together and combine their technical expertise with newly learned business skills and start a business. They gained useful perspectives that assisted with the launch and victory of the company. The team hopes to see more collaboration between the two schools in the future.
Upcoming Plans and Events
HUG Solutions is primarily focusing on launching PortaVax. They hope to have the device available for people to use and access in the near future. There are also some other exciting opportunities on the horizon, so stay tuned for more on their progress.
Advice for Current Students
The HUG Solutions team provides the following advice to current students:
“Be adaptable! Be ready to roll with the punches as they come. You never know what opportunities might come up and it’s nice to be ready and just go for it. Also, talk to people! Our mentors were essential in the momentum of our project and getting us connected.”
A Final Thought
As a final thought, the team would like everyone to pause to reflect and ask why the issue they are addressing exists in the first place. Their product is a temporary fix, but it still has a lot of limitations around global healthcare accessibility that don’t necessarily have technical solutions yet.
To contact the HUG Solutions team, please email Brayden.Shelley@colorado.edu.