NOTE: A few weeks ago, we announced our Spring 2011 Grants , pledging over $4 million to help fund six organizations that use invention to solve social issues around the globe. Over the past several weeks, we’ve featured guest blog posts about each grant. Today, Lemelson Foundation Program Officer Erin Tochen talks about a grant to support an innovative collaboration to develop and disseminate new neonatal technologies.
Since 2005, East Meets West’s (EMW) Breath of Life (BOL) program in Vietnam has provided a suite of low-cost neonatal health technologies as well as clinical and technical training for doctors and nurses. The program was so successful in Vietnam that The Lemelson Foundation supported an expansion to Cambodia and Laos in 2008. To date, BOL has reached 200 neonatal care units caring for approximately 45,000 babies each year; there is a dramatic drop in infant mortality in hospitals that have adopted BOL. As a rule after the introduction of just one CPAP machine, the 24-hour infant mortality rate drops from 30% to less than 10%.
When East Meets West began exploring taking BOL to even more countries in Asia they recognized the importance of continuing the innovation process to develop better neonatal technologies.
This is where the partnership with Design that Matters (DtM) begins. With expertise in creating award winning technologies and recognition as a leader in design for social enterprise, Design that Matters is a perfect complementary partner with East Meets West’s expertise in manufacturing, distribution and training in low resource environments.
EMW and DtM began working together in 2009 to find areas of synergy and eventually decided to develop a portable phototherapy device. The device, called the Firefly, treats jaundice and can be easily transported between the neonatal intensive care unit and where the mother is staying to allow mothers and babies to be closer together for longer periods of time.
The Firefly is a low-cost and locally manufactured solution to Western-built phototherapy devices that are often donated and rendered unusable after a matter of months. Features include a removable and cleanable single-infant bassinet, and LED phototherapy lights above and below the baby making it an intuitive and effective phototherapy device. Currently in beta phase, the Firefly will begin clinical trials in 2012.
This is just the first of several new technologies planned for the partnership between East Meets West and Design that Matters. Such a partnership that aims to bridge the gap between technology development and dissemination is exciting and we’re thrilled to support their endeavors.