Guest post by Wendy Taylor, Director of the Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
The first hours of a baby’s life are some of the most joyous and, in some settings, the most dangerous. Globally, nearly 1.45 million infants die within the first 48 hours of birth. Most of these deaths are preventable, and most occur in developing nations. In response to this tragic reality, Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development was launched in 2011 to find urgent solutions to radically impact maternal and newborn health.
The challenge calls on global solvers to submit innovative prevention and treatment approaches to help pregnant women and newborns in the poorest, hardest to reach communities to leapfrog current practices. It’s a partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the newest addition: the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
Together they have invested nearly $50 million over four global calls for the most dynamic and most innovative idea with the potential to save millions of lives. Last year, the partners put up another $50 million to continue the call.
Saving Lives at Birth brings together the experts in international development, rural health care settings, and the brightest minds in the medical field to work side by side to solve the intractable problems in maternal and newborn health. Every year, innovators – old and new – gather for the annual DevelopmentXChange in Washington, DC to exchange ideas, develop further partnerships and hopefully scale their solutions.
This past month, the fifth annual DevelopmentXChange Saving Lives held its own version of Shark Tank and instead of pitching drawings cats or really long skate boards, judges critiqued the pitches for innovations that are changing the world.
At the same time, 53 innovators competed for Saving Lives at Birth’s fifth global call, and 17 innovators made the final cut for seed and validation grants. The Challenge will announce the newest transition-to-scale grants in the coming weeks. Some of the newest additions to the Saving Lives squad include Bempu Health’s low-cost wristband for newborns to alert mothers in India of hypothermia onset, Ifakara Health Institute’s aerial delivery of lifesaving medicines in rural areas, and PATH’s “nifty” ergonomic and affordable tool to optimize breast-feeding for preterm infants.
Saving Lives at Birth is proud to announce the newest Round 5 validation award nominees (around $250,000), which include:
- Bempu Health Private Ltd- Bangalore, Karnataka, India: Introduction of a simple, low-cost newborn wristband that alerts a mother in case of hypothermia, enabling early action in India.
- Bioceptive, Inc.- New Orleans, Louisiana, USA:Validation of a novel, reusable IUD inserter in Bangladesh to expand access to long-acting reversible contraception.
- Emory University - Atlanta, Georgia, USA:Validation of a microneedle patch for tetanus toxoid vaccination.
- Ifakara Health Institute- Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania:Testing the emergency aerial delivery of blood and lifesaving medicines to mothers in rural Tanzania.
- Lucky Iron Fish Inc. - Guelph, Ontario, Canada: Scale-up of Lucky Iron Fish™: a low-cost, innovative solution to iron deficiency saving lives of women and children in urban Cambodia.
- Mbarara University of Science and Technology - Mbarara, Uganda:Testing of the Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR), which provides instant feedback to enable self-training, skills retention, and rapid corrective action for health workers in Uganda.
- Moi University College of Health Sciences - Eldoret, Kenya:Testing a peer-support model that groups pregnant women together in the same community to receive maternal and child health services.
- Nanobiosym, Inc. - Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Validation of the Gene-RADAR® nanotechnology platform to detect early HIV in infants in Rwanda.
- PATH - Seattle, Washington, USA: Validation of the NIFTY™ cup, a simple, safe, ergonomic, and affordable tool designed to optimize breast feeding to preterm infants and other infants with breastfeeding difficulties.
- The Mintaka Foundation for Medical Research - Geneva, Switzerland: Further development of a highly heat-resistant and non-invasive form of oxytocin to reduce maternal death through post-partum hemorrhage.
- University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA: Design and assessment of a task-shifting assistive contraceptive insertion device to increase access to long-term contraception in low-resource settings.
- University of Nairobi - Nairobi, Kenya: Validation of a sustainable, barcode-based incentive system that rewards mothers with discounts on essential items to encourage ANC attendance in Kenya.
- WHO - Geneva, Switzerland: Clinical validation of the Odon device for assisted vaginal delivery.
And the four newest seed award nominees (up to $250,000) include:
- Diagnostics for All - Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Development of a single point-of-care, sensitive, low-cost, rapid, paper-based diagnostic test for anemia, HIV, HBV, and syphilis to streamline the screening of pregnant women during antenatal care.
- Georgia Tech Research Corporation - Atlanta, Georgia, USA: Development and testing of a low-cost, portable technology to assess the risk of obstructed labor in Ethiopia.
- University of Toronto - Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Development of quadruple fortified salt for simultaneous delivery of iron, folic acid, vitamin B12 and iodine.
- William Marsh Rice University - Houston, Texas, USA: Development of a low-cost, point-of-care bilirubin measurement device to diagnose neonatal jaundice and monitor phototherapy in low resource settings.
Since its inception, Saving Lives has funded 81 innovations in over 24 countries to ensure all women and babies – no matter where they live – receive the kind of health care they deserve. So far, Saving Lives has impacted over 1.5 million women and babies and had a hand in saving at least 4,000 lives.
Saving Lives welcomes its newest innovators and is confident that they will further the initiative’s mission to make the 48 hours surrounding childbirth the safe experience it should be for everyone, regardless of where they are in the world.