Woman working with slides in a lab.

In the developing world, it’s not always as simple as sending samples off to the lab. PATH’s diagnostic tests can be used at the point of care. Photo: PATH.

HealthTech: advancing technology solutions for better health since 1987

The United States Agency for International Development and PATH signed the first HealthTech cooperative agreement in 1987 with the idea that technologies tailored for use in low-resource settings could improve the health of families around the world.

Charged with identifying and advancing technology solutions for priority health issues in the developing world, the HealthTech program supports early proof-of-concept and feasibility studies as well as later-stage steps to get products to market.

The program works in nearly all health areas including maternal and child health, family planning and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, water supply and sanitation, nutrition, infectious diseases, point-of-care diagnostics, and health management information systems. HealthTech draws upon PATH staff members with a broad range of skills and expertise including product designers, engineers, scientists, health practitioners, health economists, and marketing and business specialists.

HealthTech bridges the gap between the public and private sectors to forge collaborations that benefit both, resulting in innovative technologies made for people in low-resource settings. We also provide commercialization partners with valuable incentives to participate in developing-world public health markets. These efforts have bolstered the confidence of partners and donors to scale up technologies.

Over time, HealthTech has leveraged opportunities for collaboration and coinvestment with others deeply involved in global health, including the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund, and individual donors.

Achieving impact worldwide

Technologies advanced through the HealthTech program have had remarkable global impact. As of 2013:

  • 86 million HIV dipstick diagnostic tests had been purchased. PATH was an early developer of a rapid, low-cost test for HIV, which we transferred to manufacturers in India. This catalyzed the market for affordable tests and resulted in more accessible HIV testing throughout the developing world.
  • 96 million prefilled, single-use Uniject™ injection systems had been distributed. Uniject was first used in Indonesia to deliver hepatitis B vaccine to newborns.
  • 185 million immunochromatographic diagnostic strip tests for Plasmodium falciparum malaria—originally developed under HealthTech—used in clinics and hospitals in the developing world to provide same-day test results. PATH also is applying rapid test technology to develop diagnostics for the neglected tropical diseases Chagas disease and river blindness.
  • 4.6 billion vaccine vial monitors (VVMs) have been applied to vials of vaccines. Beginning in 2001, all vaccines distributed by UNICEF have used a VVM to monitor damaging heat exposure. Over the next decade, PATH estimates VVMs will allow health workers to more effectively deliver an additional 1.5 billion vaccine doses in remote settings.
  • 6.7 billion vaccinations have been delivered in developing countries using SoloShot™ syringes. SoloShot was the first commercially available autodisable syringe and catalyzed a global policy shift in safe injection.

Lifesaving solutions for use worldwide

HealthTech has advanced many lifesaving solutions for use in developing country health programs and worldwide public health campaigns. Other technologies include antishock garments to help control postpartum bleeding, thermostable vaccines that can withstand greater heat exposure than those of the past, 7.1% chlorhexidine for umbilical cord care to prevent deadly neonatal infections, and user-designed female contraceptives and HIV prevention technologies, including the Woman’s Condom and SILCS diaphragm.

Under HealthTech cooperative agreements, we have investigated hundreds of technologies and evaluated dozens in the field. More than 20 of our technologies have been made available for regional or global use. The results achieved using our unique and integrated approach have proved that HealthTech can bridge conventional challenges and build effective partnerships that help solve global health problems.

SoloShot and Uniject are trademarks of BD.