Grand Challenges in Global Health Meeting - Day Three

Day Three of the Grand Challenges in Global Health meeting might have been the best day yet. We heard from several Gates and Saving Lives at Birth innovators as they “fast pitched” their novel ideas, including two Saving Lives seed grantees – Michelle McIntosh from Monash University and Mario Merialdi from WHO.  Dr. McIntosh described her ongoing efforts to develop an inhalable form of oxytocin, which would alleviate many of the barriers to oxytocin use in low-resource settings, including refrigerated storage, administration by a trained health provider under sterile conditions, and high cost.  She said that formulation has not been a simple process, but it’s “imminently doable.”  The presentation was enthusiastically received by the audience; comments and questions ranged from complements about the project and innovation, inquiries about the scientific process, and suggestions for next steps.

Dr. Merialdi presented the Odón Device, a novel, simple, and low-cost instrument for assisted vaginal delivery, on behalf of WHO.   He reminded the audience that "there has been no innovation in assisted delivery for centuries."  The ideation behind the amazing device came from an Argentinean car mechanic – truly an unbelievable and inspiring story that confirms innovation can come from anywhere.  Dr. Merialdi said that the “tipping point” of the device’s success came from the Saving Lives at Birth Development Exchange and subsequentaward.   One audience member confirmed this claim by saying “events like the Saving Lives at Birth [DevelopmentXChange] encourage and make technology visible to others.”

The meeting ended with a joint panel session with the Keystone Symposium on new family health initiatives.  Melinda Gates opened the session via video, encouraging the innovators to continue pushing boundaries as “innovation makes the impossible, possible.”  Gary Darmstadt, Director of Family Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, described the enormous risks faced by mothers and children today in the developing world. “But,” he eloquently paused,  “with challenge and burden comes opportunity.”  These opportunities include Saving Lives at Birth, Grand Challenge Canada’s Saving Brains initiative, and three new Gates’ Grand Challenges in Global Health.  Wendy Taylor, Senior Advisor of Innovative Finance and Public Private Partnerships at USAID,  emphasized the role of smart integration and collaboration within the Saving Lives at Birth grant program. She called on problem-solvers to push boundaries and continue raising the bar on innovation for the  next round of grants. She shared that the next round will start in early 2012!  Karlee Silver, Program Officer at GCC, discussed the Saving Brains initiative, which seeks effective and efficient approaches to enable children in low- and middle-income countries to fulfill their individual developmental potential.  Craig Rubens of the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS) announced their collaboration with the Gates Foundation to find  innovative solutions to prevent preterm birth.   Andrew Serazin of the Gates Foundation addressed their second grand challenge, which aims to discover new pathways or mechanisms to achieve healthy growth. And lastly, Yiwe He of the Gates Foundation described their third grand challenge – to identify and validate biomarkers of gut function to improve the health and development of children in the developing world.  Be on lookout for these opportunities- mothers and children urgently need your innovative ideas and solutions.


Further, more in-depth blogs posts on the Saving Lives at Birth innovations mentioned above are forthcoming as well as posts on the overaching themes of the meeting.