May 7, 2012

Jhpiego-CBID partnership unveils global health innovations

Jhpiego and Johns Hopkins student engineers will today unveil BabyBeats and FeverPoint, two extremely affordable, innovative devices designed to help front-line health workers prevent maternal and newborn deaths in communities throughout the developing world.

The projects, designed by Jhpiego-mentored students at the Whiting School of Engineering’s Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design, or CBID, are among four global health proposals that will be showcased today, May 7, as part of the university’s Biomedical Engineering Design Day 2012, to be held in the School of Medicine’s Armstrong Education Building on the East Baltimore campus.

FeverPoint is a simple self-test that uses a single cotton thread and a drop of blood to pinpoint the underlying cause of fevers related to malaria, bacterial pneumonia and other infections that kill millions of children each year around the world. Using science similar to that in a pregnancy self-test, FeverPoint’s sample preparation works without water or electricity, often scarce in health facilities in developing countries. By differentiating between bacterial, viral and malarial infection, the test facilitates accurate diagnosis, which can reduce overprescription of drugs and save millions of lives.

Smaller than a flashlight and powered by a rechargeable cellphone battery, BabyBeats is a fetal heart-rate monitor designed to help prevent the estimated 2 million stillbirths and newborn deaths that occur yearly in the developing world. In low-resource settings, health facilities lack up-to-date equipment and trained staff to routinely monitor fetal heart rate while a woman is in labor. The hand-held BabyBeats monitor relies on inexpensive microphone technology to amplify the beating of an unborn baby’s heart and digitally displays the heart rate. At an estimated $10, the device is a fraction of the cost of Doppler technology used in most modern hospitals.

“These brilliant student engineers are designing ultra-affordable, effective transformational tools that can be used easily at the community level to save the lives of women and children,” said Harshad Sanghvi, vice president and medical director of Jhpiego.

These devices, which are in prototype phase, are the result of a unique partnership between Jhpiego’s maternal and newborn health experts and CBID professors and engineers who work in the lab and in the field to address today’s global health challenges.

Two other global health design projects on display will be ADAPT and CryoPop.

ADAPT, the Automatically Deflating Air Postpartum Tamponade, can help stop a woman from bleeding to death after birth, the cause of 125,000 maternal deaths worldwide each year. A custom-designed balloon inflates in the uterus, providing uniform pressure to help stop post-birth bleeding, and then automatically deflates, allowing the uterus to contract to its normal size. Its creators say that it would be safe, reliable and cost less than $10.

CryoPop is a device that creates dry ice from CO2 to kill precancerous lesions in the cervix and prevent cervical cancer, a leading killer of women in the developing world. This method of cryoablation doesn’t require a skilled physician or electricity, which are unavailable in many remote parts of the world. Made of injection-molded components, CryoPop would be more durable, and 30 times more efficient and far cheaper than the $2,000 equipment costs of the current method of cryoablation.

“For each of these projects, millions of lives are at stake,” said Youseph Yazdi, executive director of CBID. “The Johns Hopkins students provide the creativity, passion and very long hours that it takes to make the breakthroughs you see here.”