Awards for Global Health Projects

The “Patents for Humanity Awards” are given to companies that have found innovative ways to provide healthcare solutions to some of the most disadvantaged and underserved regions of the world. Last month, the Department of Commerce recognized the four award winners at the National Press Club for their work in tackling the global burden of disease.

The award program was launched by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2012 and is the USPTO’s top honor for recognizing patent owners and licensees who use game-changing technology to meet global humanitarian challenges.

The first award went to FDA scientists seeking to find a better meningitis vaccine production method for the Meningitis Vaccine Program (MVP) in order to help the population in Africa. FDA has licensed the technology to the MVP and has hosted production scientists from MVP’s Indian manufacturer to teach them how to use the vaccine production technology.

Accurately diagnosing malaria is a difficult problem with an estimated half of global cases undiagnosed. The standard microscope test has low sensitivity with up to 30 percent false positives and 20 percent false negatives.

To try to combat the problem in diagnosing malaria, the second award went to the engineers and doctors at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) They designed a rapid, accurate, low-cost malaria diagnostic test to address the problem of testing for malaria.

The engineers designed a device called the “Magneto-Optical Detection (MOD) which uses lasers and magnets to diagnose malaria in a new way. This is done by detecting iron-laden by products of the parasite in the blood.

The startup company GestVision Inc. another award winner, developed a rapid affordable urine test caregivers can use to diagnose Preeclampsia (PE) a pregnancy complication that is the leading cause of prenatal death for mothers and babies mostly in low and middle income countries.

GestVision’s test kits are currently being used in clinical studies in Bangladesh, Mexico, and South Africa. Following initial research at Yale University, GestVision was created to further develop the technology and is now working on a manufacturing process to produce the kits in large volume.

Delivering vaccines to off-grid regions is complicated by the need to keep them cold. The fourth award went to researchers at the Global Good Fund They designed the Arktek cooler to keep vaccines cold for a month with no power required. The device combines advanced design with high-efficiency insulation materials to prevent heat transfer.

The Arktek cooler is used to store vaccines for tuberculosis, polio, and vaccines covering influenza, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, and diphtheria. The technology has been licensed to a leading refrigeration manufacturer to produce the device at scale for an affordable price.

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