Foundation Awards Millions to UNC

A team of clinical researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill received $14 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to conduct two studies aimed at improving pregnancy outcomes in the world’s poorest countries.

Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, will lead studies to explore the role of technology to predict and address key risk factors associated with pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

The Limiting Adverse Birth Outcomes in Resource-Limited Settings (LABOR) study is going to focus on the period of pregnancy when labor begins and ends with delivery. The study will evaluate 15,000 women at high volume clinical sites in three developing countries, including UNC-Chapel Hill’s flagship partnership in Zambia.

The team will provide wearable physiologic sensors to monitor laboring mothers and their fetuses and carefully document their clinical course and birth outcomes. Using the data, researchers will develop new algorithms to both identify individual women’s risk of specific adverse outcomes which will help to predict and then plan for the specific interventions needed.

The second study, “Fetal Age Machine Learning Initiative (FAMLI) is going to develop a robust, affordable ultrasound device to be deployed in limited resource settings to assess gestational age and other important obstetric information while requiring minimal operator expertise.

“The team will produce large sets of ultrasound data to be used to train machine learning algorithms to assess gestational age and make other diagnoses. The FAMLI project will use new techniques in artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop a simplified ultrasound device that will be able to radically improve care in settings where skilled sonographers are not available”, according to Dr. Jeffrey Stringer, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology in the UNC School of Medicine.

Upon completion, data from both studies will be publicly available through the Gates Foundation’s Knowledge Integration team for interested groups to access and be able to continue to improve maternal-child health.

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