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FARE Blog February 23, 2024

February 2024 Leadership Spotlight: Creating the SercaCase

Teen Advisory Group (TAG) members Robert Vine, Lilia Vine, and Maia Coplit have invented a new way to help young people remember to carry epinephrine.


During Spring Break 2022, Robert Vine, his sister Lilia, and Lilia’s best friend Maia Coplit learned the importance of restaurant training firsthand. Traveling in Ireland, Robert and Lilia were amazed that waitstaff everywhere understood how dangerous Robert’s food allergies could be: even the smallest restaurants labeled food allergens on their menus. Back in the U.S., Maia was served an appetizer containing cashew and spent a night in the emergency room, even though she’d informed the waiter about her allergy and had been reassured that practices were in place to prevent her allergen exposure. Inspired to make a difference by improving food allergy safety in Connecticut restaurants, the three teens worked with State Reps. Steve Meskers and Robin Comey and teamed up with FARE to advocate for a restaurant bill that passed both chambers of the General Assembly and was signed into law by Governor Ned Lamont in June 2023.

While they were pursuing legislative solutions, these members of FARE’s Teen Advisory Group also brainstormed to figure out how young people with food allergies could help protect themselves. Their solution, the SercaCase, is now available for purchase, with all profits donated to FARE!

  • How did you come up with the idea for SercaCase? What problem does SercaCase solve? 

We knew that even if we were able to change restaurant training by passing a law, it would be a long process – and what about the reactions that happen in schools, outdoors, or at home? We realized that we needed a solution that we could carry with us anywhere.

Many times when going out, we would have to turn the car around because epinephrine had been left behind at home, and even when we remembered to bring epinephrine, it was at the bottom of a purse or backpack. However, we are always glued to our phones. We decided that if we attached epinephrine to our phones, we would never forget this life-saving medication again. We knew this could be a solution to keep many people safe who have food allergies. This is why we developed SercaCase.

  • What steps did you take to develop the SercaCase prototype and bring the product to market?

We had a general idea of what we wanted to design – a phone case with a pocket that carries an Auvi-Q epinephrine auto-injector. In the summer of 2022, we started by researching the best materials to use and decided on silicone because it was flexible enough to hold the Auvi-Q snugly in place and rigid enough to keep it protected.

Maia created the first prototype by using the Auvi-Q’s precise measurements to cut out a piece of silicone, shape it into a pocket and glue it to a phone case. It took a few tries to get the measurements just right, and in the process, we realized that it would be better for the pocket to fit tightly enough to keep the outer Auvi-Q case when the medicine is pulled out so that the injector is ready to use immediately.

Using Google to search for phone case manufacturers, Robert found a few options that looked good. Then it got more challenging because all the companies were in China and dealt with huge bulk orders. He had countless back and forth communications before he chose a company that was willing to start with a small order and negotiate down to prices that we could afford.

In December, Lilia created a marketing survey that went to friends, classmates, Facebook groups related to allergies, and our doctor’s offices. We needed to figure out if there was interest in the case and which phone models we needed to manufacture first. In March 2023, we registered for a provisional patent and by April, the manufacturer had sent the first prototype. The pocket was a little too tight, a little too high on the back of the phone, and it was difficult to get a good hold on the Auvi-Q. We asked the manufacturer to add small cut outs on the sides of the pocket to make it easy to grip the Auvi-Q and make the pocket slightly larger and lower on the case. Before sending him our changes, we brought the prototype to our allergy doctor to get her input, and she agreed with the changes.

Throughout the summer of 2023, we worked on getting the prototype right. Lilia also got our website started, and we decided to add a blog to describe our journey. We hoped that documenting each step of the process, the challenges we faced, and how we overcame them, might inspire other teens to pursue their own ideas. In August 2023, we approved the third prototype, and in September, the first mold was manufactured, and production began. We thought that was an exciting time until October, when our website went live and we had our first customer who bought cases to donate through her wonderful charity, Reese Strong. Since then, we have developed a system and a routine to monitor emails, respond to customer questions, email every customer with delivery information, pack up the cases, and mail them. Of course, there are a lot more details to the story, and we’re happy to help any other teens who are starting this process!

  • Do you see connections between your collaboration to create the SercaCase fit and your involvement with food allergy advocacy and legislation?

Working to pass better laws, creating a product that helps people carry their epinephrine, and advocating for those of us with food allergies are equally important and linked efforts. We want to advocate in every way possible – connecting with our larger food allergy community to raise awareness and educate; listening, learning, and providing resources at community health fairs; and speaking out about the serious and preventable outcomes of food allergies. In March, we will be going to Washington, D.C. for FARE’s Courage for Congress for the first time. We are excited to learn more about legislation at the national level and contribute to a united voice.

Having food allergies can be a pretty isolating experience. When we went to the FARE Summit in October 2023, it was like stepping into another world where everyone understood each other’s challenges, hopes and fears about this part of our lives. We want to bring that shared experience to as many people as possible and encourage everyone (with and without allergies) to be advocates for positive change.

  • Why have you decided to donate funds raised by sales of the SercaCase to FARE?

We are donating all SercaCase profits to FARE! When we had first gotten involved with allergy advocacy, we reached out to FARE, and they answered right away. Throughout this process, the people at FARE have always gone out of their way to help us. For example, we worked on legislation with the incredible Jason Linde, who helped us prepare to testify to the Connecticut Public Health Committee in support of House Bill 5902 (now Public Act 23-115 An Act Requiring Food Allergy Awareness in Restaurants), came from D.C. to Hartford to help lobby for the bill at the Connecticut state capitol, and introduced us to Dr. Kelly Cleary who leads FARE’s Teen Advocacy Group (TAG). Dr. Cleary taught us about TAG and helped connect us to Kaléo, the company that makes Auvi-Q. We ended up presenting a TAG poster at the 2023 FARE Summit and participated in a Kaléo panel about advocacy. We have learned that FARE provides incredible educational resources, works at the national and state government levels to create and support food allergy legislation, and is the largest food allergy charity that supports research. We are very grateful for the work that FARE is doing for people with food allergies, and we want to be a part of that effort!

To learn more about SercaCase, visit www.sercacase.com.

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