Friday Think: HIV test results in 15 minutes via smartphone

HIV and syphilis diagnostic test: plastic components attached to a smartphone.

An accurate new HIV and syphilis diagnostic test utilizes a smartphone and accessories. Photo: Tassaneewan Laksanasopin.

As technology becomes increasingly embedded in our everyday lives, our phones—and the accessories that we sync to them—do more than make calls, send texts, and click pics. They’ve really become portable data-gathering and synthesizing devices.

Demand is high for personal electronic devices that make health care cheaper and more accessible. And no wonder. Their cost, interface, and size make them ideal tools for point-of-care diagnostics. (Want to take your pulse? See how your blood glucose levels are doing after lunch? Check your smartphone.)

A dongle, a drop of blood, and a phone = a dual test for HIV and syphilis

Researchers at Columbia University have figured out a way to find out, in 15 minutes, if an individual has HIV or syphilis. The original intent behind the design of this test was to help reduce the infection rate of HIV and syphilis from mothers to their children as these two diseases have a high potential for transmission.

Here’s an excerpt from an article written by Abby Phillip of the Washington Post:

Researchers at Columbia University have taken the mechanics of a laboratory test for HIV and syphilis and crammed them into a device the size of a wallet.

It attaches to a smartphone and can provide accurate results in 15 minutes. . . .the device could help make in-field tests for sexually transmitted diseases faster and more accurate in places where a second visit to a doctor for treatment isn’t feasible.

“If you can start to bring core health services to the smartphone beyond just measuring the heart rate—like blood tests—then you’re going to start seeing a pretty fundamental shift in the health-care system,” said Samuel Sia, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia, and an author of the paper on the device published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The new device essentially replicates the HIV test considered a gold standard for laboratory testing, as well as the same kind of syphilis tests you might get in a standard laboratory. But it produces results 10 times more quickly and, in a small study, Sia’s team found it to be very accurate.

“The cost, size and power. . .those three things, we just reduced it by orders of magnitude from what we did before,” Sia said, noting that his team first began working on the technology about 10 years ago, before the first iPhone even existed. “It replicates all the things that a lab-based robot would do.”

“We’re actually not really developing a totally new way of doing things, but insFriday Think logotead we’re just replicating what lab-based instruments do, step by step.”

To learn more about the impact of this new test, read Abby Phillip’s full article in the Washington Post.

Each week, we scour the news for the hottest stories on innovation. Our weekly feature, The Friday Think, highlights one we’ve found particularly fascinating.

PATH recognizes the contributions of Dr. Gaetano Borriello

Gaetano Borriello.

One of Gaetano Borriello’s remarkable abilities was to anticipate trends so he could be an early developer of technologies that would later be deployed in low-resource settings. Photo: UW.

Dr. Gaetano Borriello, University of Washington professor of Computer Science & Engineering, passed away at his home following a long fight with cancer. This remembrance was written by PATH’s Richard Anderson, a colleague of Dr. Borriello’s at the University of Washington.

On February 1, PATH and the entire global health community lost a great friend and innovator.

Dr. Borriello’s work often focused on applying mobile technologies to public health problems in the developing world.

He led the Open Data Kit (ODK) project, developing a suite of open source tools to support mobile data collection solutions. The tools were designed to be “easy to try, easy to use, easy to modify, and easy to scale.”

Health worker tapping the screen of a smartphone.

Teams working with PATH’s MACEPA program in Zambia use Android smartphones equipped with Open Data Kit software to collect demographic information as they go house-to-house testing and treating for malaria. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Dr. Borriello’s projects and students played an important role in a range of PATH projects including:

  • Human Milk Banking, where the FoneAstra Temperature Monitor is a crucial component of a low-cost milk pasteurization system.
  • Mobile Midwife project, where mobile devices were used by nurses to support household visits with decision support, data collection, and a video education application.
  • mPneumonia, a mobile application that uses a pulse oximeter to help with the diagnosis and management of childhood pneumonia.
  • Data collection for Malaria Control and Elimination Partnership in Africa (MACEPA), where community health workers used ODK to record malaria cases.

One of Dr. Borriello’s remarkable abilities was to anticipate trends so that he could be an early developer of technologies that would later be appropriate to deploy in low-resource settings. He began his work on ODK when smartphones were exclusively a product for the affluent, arguing that they would soon be ubiquitous, creating opportunities to provide services to a vast number of people in developing countries.

In his honor, the Computer Science & Engineering Department at the University of Washington has established the Gaetano Borriello Fellowship for Change, which will support students whose work focuses on exploring how technology can improve underserved populations.

Dr. Borriello’s work has positively impacted the lives of many thousands of children and mothers in developing countries. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Our guest contributor today is Richard Anderson, Digital Health Solutions Group technology advisor in PATH’s Digital Health Solutions program, and a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington.

Friday Think: robots, rolling in a hospital near you

 The UCSF Medical Center employs a fleet of 25 robots. Video: CNET.

A new hospital just opened in the same region that gave birth to computing. Which is to say, the fanciest technological bells and whistles are well represented in San Francisco’s new $1.5 billion UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay.

For instance, patients communicate with their doctors via tablets and get their medications delivered by robots called “Tugs.”

This may sound cold and impersonal in a futuristic way, but the hope is that this marriage of technology to care will result in more one-on-one time between providers and patients.

“We want to use technology in a way that frees up our human providers to do what they’re good at, which is to focus on our patients,” said Dr. Seth Bokser, the center’s associate chief medical officer. “Patient-centered care is not just about putting technology into a hospital.”

But what about those robots?

A waist-high, box-shaped robot rolls past staff in a hospital hallway.

An Aethon robot shares a hospital hallway with staff. Photo: Aethon.

The fleet of more than two dozen self-directed robots is the largest number at any hospital.

Journalist Stephanie M. Lee writes more about the hospital’s rolling ‘bots and what they do in this article from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The tall, boxy computers on wheels can navigate the hospital on their own because they receive signals through Wi-Fi, and elevators and doors are designed to open for them.

In the course of a day, they carry meals, linens, medical instruments, medications and lab samples more than a dozen miles.

Programmed to know exactly who their targets are, the robots can be opened only by PIN codes and biometrics, such as fingerprints. If they get blocked en route, an engineer can redirect them.

The robots aren’t intended to replace doctors, Bokser said, but instead handle mundane, tiring tasks.

“This, for example, will free up our nursing staff from having to bring things back and forth from the lab,” he said, “from taking sample cups from the lab up to the floor and sending samples back to the lab.”Friday Think logo

It’s futuristic, but not completely so. Aethon’s robots are already used in more than 110 hospitals worldwide.

You may read the article in its entirety at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Each week, we scour the news for the hottest stories on innovation. Our weekly feature, The Friday Think, highlights one we’ve found particularly fascinating.

A fresh perspective at PATH: introducing David Shoultz

David Shoultz with a child in a Garifuna community on a small island near Roatan, Honduras.

“As we pursue drug development, we may be focused on one particular disease, but it is critical that we understand and think about people holistically.” David Shoultz. Photo: PATH/David Shoultz.

Today we profile David Shoultz, our new Drug Development program leader. We spoke to him recently to find out what first drew him to global health, what inspires and motivates him, and what he envisions for PATH’s Drug Development program.

Q. What first drew you to global health?

A. My mother was an early influence. She recently retired, but for many years, she was a professor of community health nursing at the University of Hawaii. She focused on issues affecting rural communities, including domestic violence and nutrition. Watching her career develop, I saw the passion and the reward, and I got to know more about the critical work she did. Her stories helped to fuel my early interest in global health.

David Shoultz on a remote section of the Great Wall of China in the Beijing Region of China.

On a remote section of the Great Wall of China in the Beijing Region of China, 2009. Photo: David Shoultz.

Later, in the 1990s, Dr. King Holmes at the University of Washington drew me to global health as we know it today, teaching me the critical value of understanding the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices of the people that we intend for our global health interventions to benefit. I was—and am to this day—inspired by his ingenuity, generosity, and work ethic.

Q. What motivates you?

A. The idea that we don’t live in a zero-sum world. Over the past 100 years, the health and well-being of people around the world has improved dramatically. I’m confident that we’re going to make even greater strides over the century to come. I’m motivated by the knowledge that our work today is going to be a part of that progress.

Q. Tell us about a time when you witnessed the need to shift how we think of drug development.

When I was at the Gates Foundation, I traveled as part of a team to Bihar, India, to visit programs working on multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (TB). While visiting one family’s home, I met a 16 year old girl with TB.

3 Outside of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with a household health survey program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2011. Photo: David Shoultz.

Outside of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with a household health survey program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2011. Photo: David Shoultz.

As it turned out, TB, which is common among people in this area, was not her primary concern. She had type 1 diabetes, and was more worried about this “strange” disease that would require her to inject herself daily with insulin. It raised concerns that she would never marry, have children, or be able to be independent. For her and her parents, it was like a life sentence.

It is critical that we understand and think about people holistically. As I may have a number of health needs that require treatment, so do people in low-resource settings. I think about how our programs can keep that in mind and develop products that make a difference.

Q. What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges in global health right now?

David Shoultz, Drug Devlopment program leader at PATH.

David Shoultz, PATH program leader, Drug Development. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

A. The biggest opportunity is the historic number of credible global health product candidates in the pipeline right now—drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, and other health technologies. Never before have we had this pipeline of promising candidates.

The biggest challenge is long-term funding for product development. It’s an area of high risk, and it takes a long time—five, eight, ten years, or more. We need to ensure that the funding continues to be there as these products advance.

Q. What global health “wins” have you been most excited by recently?

Two health workers in white uniforms, one man and one woman, stand behind a table holding a vaccine carrier and boxes of syringes.

Health workers, like these preparing for a meningitis A vaccination campaign, spend vast amounts of time keeping vaccines constantly cold. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

A. One big win is the announcement last year that MenAfriVac® can be used outside the cold chain. This approach could reduce the workload of health workers and extend vaccines to areas the cold chain could never before reach.

I also think it’s a big win to see so many high school and college students interested in global health and asking what they can do to make a contribution and a career in the field.

Q. Looking ahead, what do you envision for the Drug Development program?

A. We’re all about building right now in the Drug Development program—building on our past successes, building momentum and support, and building the future of drugs at PATH.

This year, we’re focusing on continuing to execute on our funded projects in HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, enteric diseases like diarrhea in children, and malaria. We’re also refreshing our organizational strategy; I want to make sure that we’re working on the right diseases and conditions and also contributing at the points in the value chain that make the most sense.

David Shoultz is PATH’s new program leader for Drug Development. Before PATH, he served as the Director of Grantee and Partner Engagement at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where his work centered around building liaisons with partner organizations. To keep up with David, follow him and the Drug Development program on Twitter @shoultztweets and @PATHDrugDevelopment.

More information

Global health and development take center stage at World Economic Forum

Two mothers, one standing next to her baby being weighed in a scale hanging from a tree branch and the other carrying her baby in a sling.

In Davos there was an increased focus on accelerating progress towards development goals. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

A few reflections on the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland, and the Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance’s pledging conference in Berlin from PATH’s president and CEO Steve Davis.

Steve Davis

Steve Davis is president and CEO of PATH. Photo: Auston James.

Through my roles at PATH and previous organizations, I have been fortunate to be invited to attend the annual WEF gathering in Davos over several years. In that time I have seen nonprofits and civil society organizations take increasingly important roles at these agenda-setting gatherings. While it is difficult to get a handle on the key trends in this multi-layered, complex environment, this year, the importance of inclusive growth and global development, and the role of nonprofits and civil society in that work, seemed to take center stage.

Yes, Davos has the jet-setting, celebrity, power-brokering aspect that gets played up in the media. But both there and at the Gavi pledging conference I attended in Berlin (where the global community pledged over US$7.5 billion for vaccine and immunization programs), there was an increased focus on the important leadership and partnership roles that nonprofit and civil society organizations like PATH are playing as we confront global challenges and work to solidify and accelerate progress towards development goals.

Person looking at a white board with illustration of the elements of the chronic disease crises.

A WEF participant considers the notes from a discussion called The Globalization of Chronic Disease. Photo: WEF.

Resilience was a recurring theme

Many of the challenges discussed at Davos were not even on the agenda one year ago: new conflicts, new epidemics, new fiscal uncertainties, new evidence of accelerating environmental change. So this year the focus on growth was tempered by conversations about resilience.

Bar chart showing reduction in child deaths from five chronic diseases.

We have made remarkable progress. How can we accelerate it? Click to see full-sized chart.

In some conversations, I got the sense that people and institutions are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of global challenges. At a lunch panel with technology leaders like Marc Benioff (Salesforce), Marissa Meyer (Yahoo), and Satya Nadella (Microsoft), upbeat assessments of the transformative power of the Internet were tempered by concerns about the magnitude of global security challenges and the continued and growing public distrust of business and government worldwide.

But wise voices of optimism also spoke powerfully about the dramatic improvements in health we’ve achieved in poor countries, and the clear markers of progress over the past few decades. Today, we have unprecedented tools and collaborations that we can harness to accelerate impact.

One moment that drove this home was a breakfast on our renewed commitment to nutrition and food security, in which many senior business, government, and nonprofit leaders pledged to a more ambitious agenda. At several meetings on health there was very little skepticism about our ability to continue to dramatically reduce child and women’s mortality in the coming decade.

Global health and development takes a leadership role

It seems global health and development has moved to center stage in international discussions about security, development, and governance. Health has always been part of the WEF agenda, but this year in particular there were an exceptional number of discussions about health-related topics: nutrition, food security, Ebola, noncommunicable diseases like cancer and diabetes, digital health initiatives, mental health, reform of global health institutions like the World Health Organization, and more.

While this focus stems in large part from the Ebola crisis, it is also occurring because the sector can point to remarkable, measurable, rapid successes. It is very compelling to be able to describe tangible achievements at scale, like having reduced under-five child mortality by 50% since 1990, or vaccinating more than 200 million Africans against Meningitis A in five years.

2015 will be a huge year for the global development agenda, with a key meeting on new development financing models this July in Ethiopia, the finalization and announcement of the new sustainable development goals in September at the UN General Assembly, and perhaps the conclusion of a climate treaty at the end of the year in Paris.

In a remarkable plenary video message from Stephen Hawking, he described the resilience of the planet and species, acknowledging the specific challenges ahead in the global development agenda but expressing his profound optimism about the human ability to love, persevere, and thrive. It was a powerful moment.

Health systems in emerging economies can leapfrog to a new paradigm

Illustration of elements of 'leapfrogging,' including a book, smartphone, and pills.

WEF has released a new report and video on the idea of “leapfrogging.” Illustration: WEF.

“Leapfrogging” was a word on many health sector leaders’ lips at Davos. Emerging economies have an opportunity to build accessible, high-quality, and cost-effective health systems while potentially leaping over problems embedded in the models and systems prevalent in developed economies.  The WEF has actively led this conversation, releasing a recent report and video. Having served as an advisor to these efforts, it was exciting to see them bear fruit, and be an active topic of conversation at the highest levels.

Aaron Motsoaledi speaking at a podium.

South Africa’s Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Photo: MOH.

South Africa’s Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi and I led a Davos session on creating “ideal clinics” for primary care in his country. Can an emerging health system leapfrog some of the issues that challenge primary care in more developed nations, leverage digital technologies, and be intentional about a user-centered approach to systems design?

I travel to South Africa in a few days, and I want to pursue this idea and see what we can do to bring more of our partnerships, tools, and ideas to the Minister’s exciting commitment.

Innovation was central to almost every conversation I had all week. As we move towards the UN’s new sustainable development goals, we must learn from the last decade, and work to identify, fund, and support promising innovations as early as possible. This is a focus of many efforts, including the PATH-Norway-Gates Foundation partnership called Innovation Countdown 2030, which will release a major global health innovation report this summer.

Gavi’s remarkable funding conference

Of course, one of the most powerful public health interventions is vaccination. PATH’s growing and well-regarded vaccine platform was part of many conversations, especially at the Gavi replenishment meeting that took place in Berlin after Davos.

There, we heard stories from communities and countries where the impact of vaccines is being deeply felt. The MenAfriVac project’s groundbreaking work was highlighted: since vaccination began in 2010, the annual cycle of deadly meningitis epidemics has been completely stopped across much of what was formerly described as Africa’s “meningitis belt.”

Bill Gates speaking on a large stage with a projected photo above him.

Bill Gates spoke passionately at Gavi about reducing child deaths. Photo: Gavi.

PATH is a founding Gavi partner, and we have partnered closely since the beginning. We have actively advocated for Gavi funding, and I was privileged to see this important organization receive the global support and pledges it needs to continue its transformative and lifesaving work.

Bill Gates, from the Gavi stage, described unequal access to vaccines as a global injustice that we have the power to correct, and led by example with a remarkably large pledge from the foundation. There is much work ahead before this injustice is rectified, but for one day in Berlin, as countries committed more than US$7.5 billion, there was palpable optimism and excitement.

A whirlwind trip

Overall, it’s been an exciting and exhausting trip: snowy shuttle rides, engaging conversations, the occasional celebrity sighting.

We have much work ahead of us, but after these meetings I am starting 2015 with renewed confidence that we can find new and innovative ways to partner across geographies, industries, sectors, and political philosophies in service to the larger goals we all share: equity, opportunity, and health for all.

Innovation Countdown 2030: early insights from our call for innovations

Woman in pink print sari smiles at the infant daughter she holds in her arms.

Many of the technologies and interventions we received from our Innovation Countdown 2030 (IC2030) initiative survey focused on maternal and childhood needs. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Last summer, we challenged experts from around the world to imagine the year 2030 with us

Cover of Innovation Matters.

“Innovation Matters” features articles from global leaders exploring the critical role innovation can play in accelerating solutions to the world’s most urgent health challenges.

The purpose? To identify and dramatically accelerate progress toward solving the world’s most urgent health issues by the year 2030.

Imagine the impact we’d have by engaging a cross-section of people from around the world to identify these innovations and coordinate investment early on. How many more lives could we save over the next 15 years?

We surveyed thousands of health experts and thought leaders, including technology developers and industry players, and crowdsourced ideas from around the world via social media.

We received hundreds of innovations

Many focused on maternal, child, and neonatal health issues, as well as health delivery systems. Examples included: heat-stable uterotonics to address postpartum hemorrhage, malaria vaccine candidates, rats specially trained to recognize the scent of tuberculosis in sputum samples, health care workforce training tools, vital data collection systems, and rapid diagnostics to detect multiple diseases.

Responses came from around the world

We received over 500 submissions from a wide range of entrepreneurs, academics, investors, and donors representing 33 countries. In fact, 27% of innovations came from low- and middle-income countries—such as Brazil, India, Kenya, and Vietnam—signifying their growing role in global health innovation.

Claudia Harner-Jay.

Claudia Harner-Jay, senior commercialization officer at PATH. Photo: PATH.

Nongovernmental organizations (37%), industry (28%), and academia (24%), provided the majority of innovation submissions. Some participants submitted their own innovation ideas while many nominated innovations developed by others.

The next steps in our innovation countdown

There’s much more to do. We’re working with over 50 experts to assess which ideas show the most promise and potential for impact. From the many innovations that were received, they will identify a final set of 20 to 30 promising health technologies and interventions that we’ll feature in the Innovation Countdown 2030 report, later in 2015.

To learn more and follow our progress, visit the IC2030 website.

Our guest contributor is Claudia Harner-Jay, senior commercialization officer in the Devices and Tools program at PATH.

Innovative health sector financing: the Vaccine Independence Initiative

Photo of baby sitting on a bed with chart showing UNICEF's recommended immunization schedule for infants.

This week the UNICEF Board is considering expanding the Vaccine Independence Initiative (VII). This financing mechanism was launched almost 25 years ago in 1991 to decouple the procurement of vaccines from the payment for these vaccines by countries out of national budgets.

Portrait of Amy Batson.

Amie Batson is PATH’s chief strategy officer. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

We caught up with PATH’s chief strategy officer Amie Batson, who has an intimate connection with this program.

Tell us about your connection to the origins of this UNICEF program.

It’s actually an idea I developed when I was getting my masters degree at Yale’s School of Management. Thanks to the vision of James Grant, the then executive director of UNICEF; Terrell Hill, the head of the UNICEF immunization program; and James Cheyne, programme leader at the World Health Organization, it became one of the first innovative health financing mechanisms when it launched in 1991.

What is VII, exactly?

The VII was developed to address procurement and financing challenges faced by national vaccine programs. Many low- and middle-income countries that were able to finance their vaccine programs still benefited from UNICEF procuring vaccines on their behalf, because when they ordered independently, small volume orders and poor credit ratings resulted in high prices and other challenges.

But for UNICEF, the challenge was that many governments had (and continue to have) a policy requiring goods be received in country before they could issue payment. This policy directly conflicted with UNICEF’s board-mandated requirement that it receive payment in advance of procuring and shipping goods.

In addition, some countries had frequent and long delays in issuing payment, which created financial risk for UNICEF if it prepaid for vaccines. The VII mechanism enables flexible credit terms, while providing financial security to UNICEF.

UNICEF uses the VII funds to purchase vaccines from the manufacturer, and the country they are shipped to then reimburses UNICEF (and the VII fund) once the vaccines are received. Each country has an established financial ceiling—a limit on the amount of funds that it can owe UNICEF—which mitigates risk and encourages countries to reimburse quickly in order to permit future orders.

The VII showed the immunization community that there were ways to support health programs and their financial sustainability through more innovative structuring of health financing. Since then, innovative financing in the health and development sector has become increasingly sophisticated and widely used.

Health center staff filling out vaccination paperwork while mothers and infants wait on benches.

National vaccination programs face complex logistical, financial, and technical hurdles. Photo: PATH/Doune Porter.

Tell us more about your role in its origins.

I developed the VII during my summer graduate school internship at the World Health Organization (WHO), and I was hired back after graduation to implement it at UNICEF.

Bringing VII to countries was a challenge. At the time, explaining financing concepts to health staff was, to say the least, novel. I had the added challenge of doing it in French since the first target county was Morocco. The WHO translator had to call his banking friends to get a translation for new words and concepts like “revolving fund.”

After Morocco, I was thrilled to be sent to the Pacific Islands to structure a VII that bundled demand and financing for 13 island nations. For my colleagues who doubted how hard I was working in Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Caledonia, I am happy to report that this specially adapted VII is still in use today, over 20 years later.

A nurse fills a syringe from a vaccine vial.

Vaccination in Laos. Photo: PATH/Joel Aaron Santos.

What is next for the VII?

During its meeting this week, the UNICEF Board is considering expanding the VII ten-fold (from $10 million to $100 million) to cover prefinancing of vaccines as well as many health products like bednets treated with long-lasting insecticide and supplies needed for Ebola response. As countries graduate from Gavi and other donor support, there are increasing demands for mechanisms such as the VII that create greater financial flexibility.

UNICEF is also proposing to use the expanded VII to support special contracting to improve pricing and supply security.

VII has given rise to many other examples of innovative financing. Today, it’s much more common to find innovative health financing mechanisms like the VII, advance market commitments, development bonds, and purchase guarantees. Each mechanism is designed to address inefficiencies caused by differences in certainty of market information, risk tolerance, and financing policies, to name but a few.

Amie Batson is PATH’s chief strategy officer. Her 20-year career in global health includes positions with the World Health Organization, the World Bank, UNICEF, and most recently, the US Agency for International Development, where she served as senior deputy assistant administrator for global health.

Friday Think: using sensors to tackle Deflategate

A football rests on a field.

The future of football may include more on-the-field data than you ever thought was possible, including whether or not the game ball is properly inflated. Photo:

Does your car have sensors that give you precise tire pressure information?

As the sports world prepares for Super Bowl XLIX amid the brouhaha surrounding Deflategate, an innovative tracking system may soon do that for footballs. It’s called active RFID technology and it’s already doing a pretty good job of tracking athletes’ on-field performances.

Friday Think logoA little background on RFID’s playbook

Radio-frequency identification or RFID tags are increasingly embedded in many barcode labels, plastic identification cards, wristbands, tags, library books, and even passports. When embedded inside sports equipment, they can collect and transmit data from smart shoulder pads, wearable tracking gadgets, and most recently, footballs. But there are some wrinkles in the turf, so to speak…

Here’s an excerpt from USA TODAY:

Sunday marked the first time a tracking device had been placed inside the ball—a joint project, Stelfox said, between Zebra, ball manufacturer Wilson, and the NFL, which tested it in practice with the New Orleans Saints and warmups with the Cincinnati Bengals this season.

The ball looks and feels normal outside of a faint vibration that can be felt upon contact because of the way the sensor is suspended inside, and that figures to become less noticeable as the product continues to be developed.

Like the other sensors, the ball can be tracked within about six inches by the three-member Zebra team in the press box, Stelfox said. As the technology improves, it could be used to indicate who has the ball at the bottom of the pile, or which quarterback throws the hardest.

And as for measuring the pressure inside the ball to make sure there’s not another Deflategate?

A man kicks a car's tires at a used car lot.

Will this technology provide useful data? It depends on who decides what’s important. Photo: ClassicStock.

“That would make a lot of sense,” Stelfox said. “Who knew that would be important? We thought torque and rotation and distance would be key.

“But it’s funny, because your tire has a pressure gauge like that. If your tire does, a ball can, too, and whether it’s us or Wilson, I’ll bet you that gets fixed with technology.”

Impress your friends with more facts during the Super Bowl. Read the article in its entirety at USA TODAY.

Each week, we scour the news for the hottest stories on innovation. Our weekly feature, The Friday Think, highlights one we’ve found particularly fascinating.

PATH is a leader in global health innovation. We tackle some of the world’s greatest health needs from our headquarters in Seattle. Coincidentally, Seattle is the home of another organization that tackles, and tackles quite well. And so on this Super Bowl weekend we say:

Seahwaks logo with the words Go Seahawks.

Denise Lionetti: champion for a well-rounded diet of nutrition and health

Woman holding infant; other women, and men sitting in surrounding chairs.

By integrating nutrition into other programs, PATH’s work helps bring them to scale. Photo: PATH/Evelyn Hockstein.

Today we profile Denise Lionetti, the deputy director of PATH’s Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) program.

Q. What makes you so passionate about nutrition?

A. In general, maternal and child health get a lot of focus, and rightfully so. But since nutrition is one of the building blocks of health, it can get lumped in with everything else, and it becomes almost secondary.

Denise Lionetti.

Denise Lionetti, deputy director of PATH’s Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) program. Photo: PATH.

Nutrition is key to every health area that PATH works in, and malnutrition is an underlying cause of many diseases. Nutrition must be integrated into every phase of health care, from pre- and postnatal care to childhood, adolescent, and adult care. PATH’s work in nutrition focuses on integrating nutrition into other programs and helping to bring the work to scale.

Q. What are some ways PATH helps integrate nutrition into other programs and then brings them to scale?

A. We have a variety of programs that help us reach those goals. One is our Scaling Up Nutrition (MQSUN) project, funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) in the United Kingdom.

DFID asked us to develop a strategy to make it more possible to integrate nutrition into other sectors, such as poverty alleviation, agriculture, education, and health. We’re partnering with DFID to provide technical assistance while working with local governments to implement that strategy. This includes remote support and in-country work in more than 30 countries—predominately in Africa—and also large efforts in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Yemen.

Q. You mentioned a focus on country governments. Can you tell us more?

A. The MQSUN project is a very successful mechanism for working with countries, because we don’t come in with our own agenda. It is truly driven by the needs of each country. We want to help them with any barriers they face to integrating nutrition into all the other areas.

One barrier is workforce planning. There is always a shortage of trained nutritionists. We help them plan for the future by building local capacity. We find in-country consultants and team members to help grow that capacity. We are always thinking, “How can countries do this on their own?” Through MQSUN, we are seeing that more donors and countries see the value in approaching nutrition work in a fully integrated way.

Denise also serves as project director for several projects within MCHN. She brings to this role more than 30 years of experience in nutrition, maternal health, health policy, reproductive health, HIV, and primary health care. This profile originally ran in Spotlight, PATH’s internal newsletter.

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Walking together: Steve Davis reflects on 15 years of Gavi partnership

Girl in hospital bed with tube up her nose and mother comforting her.

Six-year-old Namfon was hospitalized in Vientiane, Laos, after contracting Japanese Encephalitis, a vaccine-preventable disease. Her mother, Teo, comforts her. Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

There is an African proverb that says,

“If you want to walk fast, walk alone; if you want to walk far, walk together.”

In many ways, this proverb illustrates the success behind PATH’s partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Since becoming a founding member 15 years ago, PATH has walked in step with Gavi toward the same shared destination: to create access to lifesaving vaccines and strong immunization systems that reach all children, everywhere.

By continuing to walk together, let’s see just how far we can go

This week on Gavi’s blog, Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH, provided insight on what it takes to develop and strengthen a global community of scientists, policymakers, advocates, regulators, medical workers, and caregivers to continue our good work.

Here’s an excerpt from his post:

While new vaccine introductions and current vaccination programs are saving lives each year, it’s not just developing and introducing vaccines that matters. The vaccines need to be delivered to the right people, in the right place, at the right time, and in the right condition.

Steve Davis walks through a village in India with a group of children.

PATH’s CEO and president Steve Davis says we must accelerate the progress of getting vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable. Photo: PATH.

This is at the heart of Gavi’s and PATH’s core values: employing the power of innovation and partnerships to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable are protected through equitable access to vaccines. This requires advanced and innovative supply chain systems, including vaccine transportation and storage solutions as well as ways to track supplies and vaccination coverage with accurate data.

You can read the post in its entirety on Gavi’s blog,