Scale Up of the Ceres NanoTrapⓇ Particle Production Process; The Anti-Vaccination Movement: A Deadly Disease.

Mullin, James, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Anderson, Eric, EN-Chem Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way society operates and challenged the current methods for combating disease outbreaks. At the beginning of the pandemic, the questionable accuracy of Covid-19 testing was a major hurdle to obtaining reliable information about the prevalence of the virus. Motivated by the need for improved testing methods, the technical portion of this thesis focuses on scaling up the production process at Ceres Nanosciences, Inc., a Virginia biotechnology company producing nanoparticles used to improve the accuracy of viral tests. As the pandemic has progressed, vaccine-induced herd immunity emerged as the primary means to return to normal. However, misinformation and the anti-vaccination movement are undermining efforts for widespread vaccine acceptance, necessitating the improvements to pro-vaccine campaigns explored in the Science, Technology, and Society (STS) research paper. Many of the underlying problems with current public health measures have been brought to light by the Covid-19 pandemic, and addressing the current issues with testing accuracy and vaccine pushback is an integral part of preventing future disease crises.

Ceres Nanosciences, Inc. has attracted significant attention and funding from national health organizations, motivating them to rapidly scale up their current production process. The scale-up, however, introduced a myriad of issues that the organization was not prepared to handle, limiting their ability to help improve Covid-19 testing methods. The technical portion of this thesis focuses on addressing inefficient and expensive waste disposal methods, a major impediment to successful scale-up. To solve this issue, our team researched a variety of common waste mitigation techniques used in similar industries and provided Ceres with recommendations for improving their waste management system.

The results of the technical project are in the form of three potential waste management strategies: recycling, activated carbon filtration, and countercurrent filtration. Once identified, these options were then explored in depth to determine their functional and economic feasibility. Recycling showed the most upside due to its ease of implementation, waste reduction, and economic savings. Activated carbon and countercurrent filtration also had substantial benefits over current methods but were limited by a need for additional feasibility testing and substantial process modifications, respectively. Therefore, recycling was recommended as the primary method with activated carbon and countercurrent filtration as auxiliary or future options.

The STS research paper aims to answer the question of how best to limit the impact of the anti-vaccination movement on the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine. The research was conducted based on the hypothesis that a better understanding of the anti-vaccination movement will lead to more effective methods for controlling the spread of anti-vaccination ideas. To evaluate this hypothesis, the paper examines anti-vaccination source material, social media posts, and recent vaccine hesitancy polls to identify the fundamental beliefs, primary modes of communication, and relevancy of the anti-vaccination movement. These sources were then analyzed using the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) and Diffusion of Innovations frameworks to understand the complex relationship between the anti-vaccination movement, vaccine technology, society as a whole.

Social Construction of Technology analysis emphasized the complexity of the relationship between vaccine technology and its relevant social groups. Most importantly, SCOT analysis helped identify social media and the internet as the main channels for communication and dissemination of anti-vaccination ideas. Analysis with the Diffusion of Innovations framework, along with recent data indicating that nearly 25% of the population would refuse a Covid-19 vaccine, illuminated vaccine education and misinformation as the primary issues. Overall, this project concluded that widespread vaccine education programs would be the best method for controlling the spread of anti-vaccination ideas.

The challenges introduced by the Covid-19 pandemic revealed many of the shortcomings in current public health measures. The work outlined in this thesis makes strides toward solving the current problems with virus testing accuracy and vaccine hesitancy. However, to prevent another pandemic of equal or worse magnitude, this work needs to be continued and expanded.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Waste management, Anti-vaccination movement, Social Construction of Technology (SCOT), Diffusion of Innovations
Sponsoring Agency:
Ceres Nanosciences, Inc.

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Eric Anderson
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Justin Fernandes, Peter Miedaner, Kathyrn Smith, Amy Wang

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