Innovation squared

The best innovations often arise from the joining of two distinct, independently developed innovations. Two members of the Faculty of Medicine are on their way to proving that principle yet again. Peter von Dadelszen, a specialist in high-risk pregancies, has devised a model for diagnosing pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) that is geared toward developing countries. Mark Ansermino, an anesthesiolgist, is co-inventor of a mobile phone-based pulse oximeter, which uses a probe fitted over a patient’s finger to measure blood oxygen levels, and is perfectly suited for use in low-resource health care settings. The latter invention has many potential applications, and one of them happens to be detecting pre-eclampsia. So, in one of those cases of interdisciplinary fusion, Dr. von Dadelszen and Dr. Ansermino have joined forces to customize the mobile pulse oximeter for pre-eclampsia detection. Their proposal was deemed so compelling that it won a seed grant of $250,000 from an international competition, “Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development” — one of just 19 chosen from among 600 applicants. (The backers include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank and the government of Norway.) The doctors will use the funding to test the application and hardware in Zimbabwe and South Africa, comparing results with clinics that aren’t using the technology. Read more about their ingenuity in the fall issue of UBC Medicine magazine.

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