Saturday, 12 January 2013

Crowdsourcing reveals life-saving potential in global health research

Technology is allowing partners who previously worked independently to collaborate to combat neglected diseases

A growing trend in collaborative health research is creating potentially life-saving global partnerships between pharmaceutical companies, academic researchers, disease advocates and even the general public, who are drawn into the world of science through crowdsourcing.

Dwindling money for research and development, and waning donor patience have forced global health players to change how they innovate new products and processes.

"For years, pharmaceutical companies and research institutes … have contributed to fighting neglected tropical diseases, but often independently or through smaller partnerships," said Don Joseph, chief executive of the California-based NGO BIO Ventures for Global Health, which encourages biotechnology firms to develop drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for neglected diseases.

Finding an elusive disease solution independently could mean individual glory, but also long-term research and development commitments and higher financial risk. "Generally, drug development is expensive, takes a long time and most things don't work," Joseph said. Risks have grown exponentially, with clinical trial costs rising by an estimated 70% between 2008 and 2011. Partnerships help spread the burden.

"The challenge is to create projects that are simple and allow a streamlined process for organisations to participate," Joseph told IRIN. "[Open innovation partnerships could] significantly reduce trial and error, and lead neglected disease researchers to that 'Eureka moment' more quickly and effectively."
Partners – who might once have been competitors – are increasingly sharing expertise, intellectual property and financing. Henry Chesbrough, executive director of the programme in open innovation at the University of California, coined the term "open innovation" in 2003 to describe this shift. "The prevailing logic was … if you want something done, do it yourself," Chesbrough said in 2011. "This new logic of open innovation turns that completely on its head."

Researchers are realising that in the race to discover the next big cure, strength lies in numbers. "Competitive advantage now comes from having more people working with you than with anyone else," Chesbrough said.
Global health initiatives
"We have been encouraged by the willingness of industry to consider and participate creatively in open innovation initiatives for neglected diseases and other devastating illnesses," said Joseph.
The Re:Search project, a partnership launched in 2011 between BIO Ventures and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo), which comprises 185 UN member states, calls for a more global interpretation of intellectual property to spur health innovation and development, and the collaboration of biotechnology firms, pharmaceutical companies and academia.

For example, the project will make it easier for a researcher in Tanzania to connect with pharmaceutical giants for additional biomedical information, resources and detailed product knowhow, Joseph said. Such information has often been carefully guarded because of intellectual property rights, but transparency between partners will be the key.

Crowdsourcing science
To meet health challenges more quickly and with tight budgets, an increasing number of organisations are turning to crowdsourcing competitions to outsource innovation to the general public.
In 2009, the international scientific journal Nature teamed withInnoCentive to use online crowdsourcing to invite solutions and proposals to medical and scientific problems. InnoCentive began hostingglobal health challenges in 2006, linking organisations looking for solutions with problem-solvers who can earn tens of thousands of dollars. The organisations give prizes for winning solutions in return for the intellectual property rights.

In 2008, a challenge by the Global Alliance for TB drug Development (TB Alliance) to simplify the manufacturing processes of an advanced-stage TB drug earned the two winning problem-solvers $20,000 (£12,750) each for their ideas.

The electronics company Nokia recently partnered with the California-based educational NGO X Prize Foundation, to offer $2.25m to encourage the innovative use of digital tools, particularly mobile health applications.

"This competition will enable us to realise the full potential of mobile-sensing devices, leading to advances in … [the] technology, which can play a major role in transforming the lives of billions of people around the world," said Nokia's executive vice-president and chief technology officer,Henry Tirri. Sensing technologies detect disease and measure health indicators such as temperature and blood pressure.
Product development partnerships
In the 1990s, decades before crowdsourcing was applied to humanitarian response, product-development partnerships (PDPs) tried to accelerate the development of technologies to fight TB, Aids, malaria and neglected diseases. The TB Alliance, a PDP launched in 2000, says there are more than 140 partnerships projects either being developed or in the process of investigating drugs, diagnostics and vaccines for neglected diseases.

Among these, the Gavi Alliance, formerly known as the global alliance for vaccines and immunisation, aims to get more vaccines to poorer countries, and the EU's innovative medicines initiative is developing new drugs and tests for diseases, including TB.
Growing pains
Open innovation partnerships can take a variety of forms, but in product development, partners with differing expertise, financing and motives can mean clashing agendas. Historically, product development has been driven by market incentives, which include maintaining intellectual property rights, but new partnerships are proceeding without these guarantees.
"We have had nothing but positive, eager interactions between members [of the Wipo project]," said Joseph. "The perceived barrier of intellectual property as a brake on collaboration in drug and vaccine development is, in our view, exaggerated."
Open innovation is still a new commercial approach to partnerships for global health, Joseph said. "Right now, open innovation seems to be working well to speed the development of new products, but we're in the very early stages of these projects. Time will tell."

Friday, 11 January 2013

'da Vinci' a state-of-the-art surgical telepresence robot

Using the most advanced technology available today, the da Vinci Surgical System enables surgeons to perform delicate and complex operations through a few tiny incisions with increased vision, precision, dexterity and control. 
The da Vinci Surgical System consists of several key components, including: an ergonomically designed console where the surgeon sits while operating, a patient-side cart where the patient lays during surgery, four interactive robotic arms, a high-definition 3D vision system, and proprietary EndoWrist®instruments.
da Vinci is powered by state-of-the-art robotic technology that allows the surgeon’s hand movements to be scaled, filtered and translated into precise movements of the instruments working inside the patient’s body.
Applications in remote regions and situations such as Battle-Field Surgery, taking away the Surgeon from the front-line; emergency situations in remote developing nations, sugion can be located the other side of the world while multiple da Vinch system can be flown in the other side of the world.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

How can you enter an emerging market – and improve the lives of millions?

ChotuKool logo

In India, leading manufacturer Godrej & Boyce wanted to reinvigorate growth in its venerable household appliance business. Then they found a way to attract non-consumers—the more than 80 percent of Indian households that lacked basic appliances such as refrigerators.

I came across this article on the Innosight website when researching how to innovative a disruptive product/service for emerging nations.
Innosight do a good job at explain the basics through a real world example:
'The idea to address the basic refrigeration needs of rural families in India began in 2006 at a disruptive innovation workshop led by Professor Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School through Innosight.
The Innosight team began its work by imagining living in a home without a refrigerator. Electricity is unavailable or unreliable in many rural parts of India, where families earning under $5 per day can't afford major appliances.
Could a community step up and help create a solution? Godrej Vice President G. Sunderraman led trips around rural India, observing the daily routines of villagers. Using our "jobs-to-be-done" approach, he and the Innosight team witnessed how rural consumers purchased, prepared and stored food and drinks.

Defining a simple but urgent "job"

We concluded that these homes didn't need cheap refrigerators. The "job" was much more basic. People needed an affordable way to keep milk, vegetables and leftovers cool for a day or two—both at home or away. This job is urgent in a country where a third of all food is lost to spoilage, according to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.
Godrej developed prototypes for feedback at "co-creation" events. In a straw poll of 600 women in the village of Osmanabad, the community voted to make the product red, the color of harmony and bliss.
From this effort came the ChotuKool, or "little cool" in Hindi. A disruptive innovation for the base of the economic pyramid, ChotuKool has been called "the Tata Nano of appliances," in a reference to India's super-compact car.
Instead of traditional compressors, ChotuKool is based on a thermoelectric chip that maintains a cool temperature on a 12-volt DC current or an external battery. The unconventional opening ensures cold air settles down in the cabinet to minimize heat loss and power consumption. The unit is highly portable, with 45 liters of volume inside a fully plastic body weighing less than 10 pounds.
Priced at $69, about half of an entry level refrigerator, Chotukool creates a new product category, with a targeted value proposition that serves a new segment of customers.

Developing the business model

Since ChotuKool is so unique, G
odrej needed to evolve a new business model to fit the market. Innosight suggested options for a new kind of financing plan and low-cost distribution system that generates profits.

Moving beyond a single-state test market, Godrej is now in the process of expanding distribution using community networks. The result is an innovation with impact. Godrej & Boyce is on pace to sell 100,000 ChotuKools in only its second full year on the market.
EdisonAwds_GOLDThe early success of ChotuKool led to Godrej being named India's most innovative company of the year by Business Standard magazine in a ceremony conducted by the nation's Prime Minister. BusinessWeek and Fast Company named Godrej one of the world's "most innovative companies."  ChotuKool was also awarded the 2012 Edison Award Gold prize for the Social Impact category.'

"I am making more money by selling cold water, soft drinks and even chocolates… and the space required to keep chotuKool is hardly anything."

Well, what do you think?

The so-called rising billion in emerging nations need (not just want) these kind of products.

So here's a challenge!

Can you think of a
domestic/consumer/community product for a billion people that are over the next decade going to have a income that allows then to live above  a fresh hold where they have sufficient monies to allows them to purchase goods of the type and prices range as the ChotuKool?

(a billion people!)


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Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Lifesaver Bottle

I found this life saving device on Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler's book 'Abundance.' Please read the text below from the designers site and find out about its ultra-usefulness in emerging countries.
'Even though the Lifesaver Bottle has been out on the market for a couple of years I think that it’s a great product and is worth writing about for the people that haven’t heard about it.  The Lifesaver Bottle is a portable water filtration system that only needs a puddle to give you clean water.  It filters out any contaminates down to 15nm which essentially gets rid of anything that could harm you (the smallest virus is 25nm).  Lifesaver Systems is the company that distributes the product and is run by the Lifesaver Bottle inventor, Michael Pritchard.  This product has a number of applications and could be used all over the world since all it needs to work is some water.  Let’s take a look at how the Lifesaver Bottle works.
This bottle is designed so that it is very simple for its user to get clean water.  When this project started the thinking behind it is that most people in the world live somewhere close to a water source, and therefore all they need is a filter to clean that water. So after you find a water source such as a stream, a lake, or a puddle you unscrew the bottom of the bottle, and fill it up.  The bottom of the bottle has a pump, so after it is full you screw the bottom back on and then pump up the bottle.  The pressure that builds up pushes the water through the filter and then you get a bottle of clean water.  The Lifesaver website says that the bottle cleans the water of 99.99999% of bacteria, parasites and fungi, and 99.999% of viruses.  It also reduces the number of chemicals in the water due to its carbon filter.  Because of this the Lifesaver Bottle meets or exceeds the water quality guidelines of the EPA, the UK, the European Union, and the World Health Organization.
Lifesaver focuses on three main areas that this bottle could do the most good.  One is obviously on the humanitarian side.  This whole project started when Michael was seeing the devastation from the 2004 tsunami in South-East Asia, and then Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  He saw all of these people that had lost everything and now they were surrounded by water but didn’t have any clean water and he decided to do something about it.  Traditionally during a disaster bottled water is delivered to the people in need, but with this technology you can now deliver a reusable, ecofriendly bottle instead of the throw away plastic bottles.  This bottle can be delivered to any humanitarian situation throughout the world, and as long as there is some sort of water to dump into it the people can get water.  And it doesn’t have to be a disaster.  These bottles can change lives wherever clean water is needed.  The two other applications are recreation and military, but I’m not going to go into those.
The Lifesaver Bottle is not the only product that Livesaver Systems makes.  They make a jerrycan that includes the same filtration technology as the bottle but it carries up to 5 gallons of water at a time.  Another product that they make for military applications is called the hydrocarry II.  This product is a slim, backpack type of unit that is lightweight and can be worn by soldiers while they’re out on duty.  Lastly, they have just finished developing a larger scale product called the M1.  The M1 is designed to provide up to 2 million liters of clean water, and can be integrated with a rainwater harvesting system.  It is said to be able to sterilize water at a rate of 30L/minute.  All of their products have the same filtration technology, and the only difference is the application.

There are a number of other unique features of the bottle that make it more user friendly and safe.  One is the pre-filter disc.  This is a sponge that is at the bottom of the bottle and you pour water onto it and the water then soaks into the filter.  Its main use is to keep larger particles from getting into the filter, but an added benefit is that if there is not enough water to submerge the bottle you can use this to soak up water and then squeeze it out into the filter.  Another great feature is that once the filter has lived its life (approx. 4000 or 6000 liters depending on what version you get) it will no longer let water push through, and so there is no chance that you will end up drinking contaminated water.  This is great because you don’t need to keep track of how much the filter has been used, but also don’t have to worry about drinking contaminated water.  It’s a full proof system.
While this product is almost all good, there are a couple of things that I didn’t really like about it.  One of these things is its price tag.  The 4000 L version sells for $150 on Amazon, and the 6000 L version sells for $180.  With those prices the product seems out of reach for most of the people in developing worlds, and with iodine tablets being much cheaper this may take it out of the running in most humanitarian situations.   Also, for someone using it for recreation, such as camping/hiking, this price could be discouraging unless if you are out using it frequently.  Other than that the only other problem I have with it is that it can be easily broken.  The website says that you should try and not drop or knock the bottle, but that it could take minor bumps.  This could be troublesome in any situation whether you’re hiking, you’re in the middle of a warzone, or just went through a disaster.  There is a cushioned bag that you can buy to help with this, but why not just make the product durable instead of making people buy extras?  Other than these couple of things I think that this is a great product that has a huge potential to help people all over the world.' 

For more information and to buy one for yourself you can visit Lifesaver Systems at
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