One of the many distinguishing and innovative features of the Symposium of Maternal and Child Health organized by the American India Foundation and Stanford University Medical School was the MedTech Awards. The brainchild of AIF board member Diaz Nesamoney and Stanford faculty member Raj Doshi, the awards aimed to identify and recognize innovative uses of technology in addressing the health and medical needs of low-income populations in India and around the world.
The announcement of the awards was the culmination of a day that included an intimate fireside chat with Bollywood actress and activist Madhuri Dixit, speeches, and invigorating panel discussions before several hundred attendees at this standing-room only event.
The call for applications went out in July, just weeks from the Symposium, as a way to spur interest in the topic. The organizers didn’t know what kind of response there would be, or even if there would be a response. Sometimes, a team just needs to put an idea out there and see what the universe has to say in response. It was risky, but what worthwhile things aren’t?
The organizers were overwhelmed with the response – more than 40 from three continents – and with the quality of those applicants whose innovations were recognized at the Symposium with the MedTech awards. The diversity of the impressive applicant pool prompted us to define three categories: 1) Most innovative concept, 2) Most innovative field-tested prototype, and 3) Most innovative product currently deployed in the market.
The esteemed panel of venture capital judges, Immanuel Thangaraj from Essex Woodlands and Suresh Shanmugam from Saama Capital, selected two winners in each category. Winners were selected based on five criteria: originality of idea, feasibility, frugal innovation, ruggedness, and potential for broad impact.
The two winners of the award for Most Innovative Concept were:
- NanoBios Lab, IIT Mumbai. NanoBios has invented a thermally stable vaccine patch for newborns in areas with unreliable cold chain. Bhushan Kharbika was unable to travel from India so Ms. Mora Oommen accepted the award on his behalf.
- Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Hyderabad Campus. This invention is a portable and inexpensive acute respiratory infection monitor for use in rural areas. MB Srinivas accepted the award.
The two winners for Most Innovative Field-tested Prototype were:
- InPress Technologies. They have developed a low cost device to stop post-partum hemorrhage in mothers. Anne Morrissey accepted the award.
- Paperfuge is a low cost paper-based centrifuge that requires no electricity to separate plasma from whole blood. Aanchal Johri accepted the award.
The two winners for the award for Most Commercial Success were:
- Hadleigh Health Technologies. Their invention is a low cost, easy to operate bubble CPAP device to treat respiratory distress in newborns.Jocelyn Brown accepted the award.
- Laerdal Health has developed a device for Kangaroo mother care which is essential for survival of pre-term babies. Puskar Ingale accepted the award.
During the post-Symposium reception, most of the award winners set up booths to demonstrate and explain their innovations, and many people stopped by. I made it a point to visit each winner and learn about how they had combined practical idealism, technical virtuosity and low-cost engineering to help improve public health at the grassroots level. Like many others, I was extremely impressed and hopeful after talking with these visionaries.
At the conclusion of the event, Stanford and AIF shared a forum that is being formed called the Idea Incubator where attendees could sign up to contribute and help bring to life innovations and ideas to help reduce infant mortality and improve maternal health. We are hoping to get a group of conference attendees, innovators and prominent researchers to coalesce our efforts around an area where we believe the greatest impact can be made. We hope that this will lead to a much more concrete call to action and activities leading up to an event bigger and more impactful event in 2017.