The background

What is the purpose of the tool and how we came to the idea of developing it was already covered in my previous blog post about the development of the CryoHolder. This time, I will focus on technical specifications behind it and how the manufacturing process began. Later I will focus also on current achievements and challenges in front of us.

Developing a prototype

The idea behind the CryoHolder is that it allows fast and efficient transfer of each frozen vial. In my mind, the tool needed to be 100% safe, meaning it had to ensure the successful transfer of each vial, while also keeping the hand safe and the biological sample frozen.

Cryovials mustn't fall off

The first hurdle was thus keeping the vial on the tool. Since the vial is frozen it can easily slip off of the tool, if the contact area between the vial and the tool is too small. We overcame this with the solution that the entire surface area inside of the cap of a vial is in contact with the tool - fitting tightly. Since most of the manufacturers of the vials made a hole inside of the cap, this is the best solution for an efficient transfer.

No frostbites

The second hurdle that we wanted to overcome was how to assure that the lab technician won't get in contact with the liquid nitrogen on any frozen material. And this is where the shape of the tool comes from. We wanted to create something that’s really intuitive to use - so why not replicate the tool that we all know very well and use every day? And this is where the idea for the shape cam in: a pencil or a pen is something that is used on a daily basis, also in the laboratory, so we tried to implement this design in our tool. With this approach we made sure that the distance between the hand and the frozen material is long enough to prevent touching the frozen samples. And at the same time the tool is really easy to use. The principle is the same as with a pencil, where you have a spring and a piston inside of the casing and when assembled it allows you to remove the attached vial off the tip of the tool with a simple press of a plug.

What materials to use for indestructibility

Materials used in developing the tool are crucial to ensure that the tool won't break during the usage and that it can be sterilised properly. This is why we did not want to make it out of plastic. The main issues concerning using plastic polymers are that the lifetime, compared to aluminium, is much shorter, the plastic can easily break and most of the materials are not suitable for sterilisation in an autoclave at 121 °C. Even some of the detergents and disinfectants can cause damage to the surface. So after studying the materials, we discovered that it would be best to use aluminium for the casing, pistons and the plugs, but to assure that the spring will last for ages, we decided to go with stainless steel. The conclusion is that the product is almost impossible to destroy; either with chemical or mechanical factors. So it will most certainly last for a long time.

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The CroyHolder prototype journey, from the very first version to the last.

From prototype to actual laboratories

With the first prototype in hand, which was made in a garage with CNC machinery, we applied to the Health Venture Lab business accelerator programme in Budapest. There, the next phase began. The main goal in the 6-month-long accelerator programme was to:
validate the product in a real environment
define the unique selling proposition for the product
define the stakeholders map and
to protect the tool in regards to intellectual property.

After 6 three-day-long workshops in Budapest, so-called “sprints”, we finally got to the point where we have successfully protected the IP with a patent application. A clear stakeholders map was made, including the analysis of all the relevant players in the field of healthcare/biotech. Altogether we tested the product in more than 50 laboratories across Europe. The main goal was to gather as much feedback from first-hand users of our product. This means we sent out 55 Cryoholdes to different institutions (including Karolinska Institute, Biobank Graz, Solvo Biotechnology, Natural History Museum London and many more). Based on feedback, we implemented the necessary changes to the product, but what we also defined was all the advantages of using the CryoHolder. These are:

  • The tool is 100% efficient, which means that there were no cases in which the vial slipped off the tool.
  • No frostbites occurred during the usage of our tool,
  • All the products sent out were working flawlessly - and they still are.
  • The time needed to transfer the vial with our tool was almost halved compared to any other method.

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Our team presenting at the Health Venture Lab Demoday expo.

With that outcome, we successfully pitched the idea in the finals at the Health Venture Lab Demoday and gathered new clients. A few months later the product with its original packaging was finally brought to light. The tool now comes in two variations, differentiated by the diameter of the tip since the inner diameter of the hole in the vial cap is not the same in all the vials from different manufacturers.

And now, more than a year later, the CryoHolder is being used globally, helping many labs do their work faster, easier and, above all, safer.

 

- Miha Rajh, CEO of Pharsol

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