Vaxess is a Startup Making a Difference

Michael Schrader (BSME '04) attended Purdue to work in the automotive field. But he soon found himself as CEO of a new medical startup company, Vaxess Technologies, developing a medicine-delivery patch that only needs to be worn for 5 minutes to deliver a full dose.



The patches are made from a novel biomaterial derived from silk.  When the patch is applied to the skin, tiny silk microneedles deliver medication at a customizable dose.  These could include a wide range of medications, including vaccines, without the need for painful injections.

“The biggest challenge for me was that I hadn’t taken biology classes since my freshman year of high school!” laughs Michael.  “Now we’re developing a product that delivers vaccines and cancer treatments.  But the biggest aspect of a Purdue education is that they teach you how to learn, so you can pick up new fields very quickly.”

When Michael began as a student at Purdue ME, he saw that broad scope immediately.  “The beauty of ME is that you’re learning everything from mechanics to systems to fluid dynamics,” says Michael.  “These are incredibly diverse in terms of technical complexities.  So today when I encounter problems in different areas of the company, I’m equipped to tackle anything.”

“For me, Senior Design was the most memorable course,” recalls Michael, about Purdue ME’s final capstone experience where teams spend their final semester developing and prototyping a new product.  “I like open-ended problems that have a ton of possible solutions.  I really love that early ideation phase, where you’re going through whitepaper designs and exploring all possible concepts, and applying engineering constraints to narrow down what the optimal solution might be.  It kind of foreshadowed my entrepreneurial journey, which is full of big open-ended questions!”

After graduating, Michael spent a few years designing plastic and glass parts for the automotive industry.  But he felt he could accomplish more in the business world, and began an MBA at Harvard Business School.  That’s where he first encountered the scientists working on a new silk material for biomedical applications.  Soon afterwards, Vaxess Technologies was born, with Michael as CEO.

“Moving into the world of healthcare has been amazing,” says Michael.  “We’ve been fortunate to work with organizations like the National Institutes of Health, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  These people left jobs that could have paid a lot more, because they believe in creating positive outcomes for patients here in the U.S. and around the world.  It gives you that little bit of extra incentive to overcome tough problems, because you know what you’re working on matters, and has the potential to positively change people’s lives around the world.”

It’s also why Michael returns to Purdue’s campus to recruit for Vaxess Technologies.  “You’ve got to fight pretty hard to get through Purdue Engineering!” says Michael.  “They don’t just hand you a degree; you’ve got to work hard for four years.  So when we see students today who have persevered and fought and still have that passion, those are the kinds of employees we want.”

“Purdue students have so many opportunities at their fingertips,” he says.  “I highly recommend that students take advantage and explore all the technical areas available to them, but also to think more broadly and explore everything at the University.  Purdue’s got a great school of management; they’ve got a great veterinary school.  The innovations of the future are going to come from cross-disciplinary collaborations like these.” And Michael isn’t shy about encouraging students to work for startup companies.  “As a worker at a big company, you often only get one narrow perspective.  When you’re in a small company with 8 or 10 people, you get the chance to work in roles that are far more broad, diverse, and impactful.”

Writer: Jared Pike,, 765-496-0374

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