Purdue Graduate’s Company Wins Verizon’s $1 Million Powerful Answers Award

Only four $1 million prizes are provided from Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award competition, and a small-town boy from Indiana is one of this year’s recipients (along with his talented team). Michael Schrader, the CEO and co-founder of Vaxess Technologies, has not forgotten his Hoosier roots as he now enters a global community with a vaccination innovation.

“There’s an attitude that permeates in Indiana of helping your neighbor — your community,” said the 32-year-old CEO. “I see that community much more broadly now.” Schrader, who grew up in Newburgh, IN, is a 2004 Purdue University graduate. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Schrader’s Vaxess team of Livio Valenti, Kathryn Kosuda and Patrick Ho has created a soluble, silk-stabilized vaccine that can be shipped without refrigeration to extend the global reach of vaccine products. 97% of vaccines require refrigeration, and a lack of cold chain infrastructure limits access.

Each year, more than 2.4 million people die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines, and more than 20% of children born each year do not receive proper immunization. Lack of immunization often occurs because of the challenges in keeping vaccines cold enough to store and transport, especially in tropical climates across the globe.

Verizon’s award recognizes visionary entrepreneurs who are using technology to change the world, and Verizon is looking to help them succeed along the way. This is the second year of the Verizon Powerful Answers Award, which is designed to encourage innovation and new solutions taking advantage of innovative technologies such as wireless, cloud and GPS.

The delivery system Vaxess Technologies is focusing on could target polio and measles, among others. Until complete eradication is achieved and for several consecutive years thereafter, Schrader said those diseases remain a threat.

The company’s $1 million award will go to research and development as the team investigates the demand for other biomedical applications. “We founded the company on the principle of improving global health,” Schrader said. “Having the muscle of Verizon behind you is a powerful tool.”

Verizon’s Indiana Region President Lauren Love-Wright commended the team for its top award in the nation placing among the elite of innovators.

“Our goal has always been to encourage visionaries who have solutions for global challenges,” Wright said. “It’s clear that Michael’s team is prepared to take us to the next level for a solution to a problem that still plagues the globe.”

The Verizon Wireless Powerful Answers Awards were announced February 3. The first place winners in each of the four main categories (education, health care, sustainability and transportation) will each receive $1 million each. Two additional winners in each category will receive $250,000 each for a total of $6 million in prize money.

You can follow the winners’ progress on Twitter and look for details about the Powerful Answers Award winners with the hashtag #VZPAA. For more information about all the outstanding winners, visit the Verizon Wireless News Center here.

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