A low-cost anemia-detection device developed by undergraduate biomedical engineering students at Johns Hopkins University has won a $250,000 seed grant in the Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development competition. Called HemoGlobe, the device transforms a basic cell phone into a non-invasive anemia screening and reporting tool, according to a Hopkins press release. Harnessing the cell phone’s computational power, it estimates a woman’s or newborn’s level of hemoglobin to determine anemia. If the patient is moderately or severely anemic, the community health worker can counsel the patient to seek appropriate medical care, simultaneously transmitting the data to a central repository in a “Google Maps” format for better targeting of scarce health systems resources.
Anemia contributes to the deaths of more than 100,000 women and 600,000 newborns each year. The seed grant will allow the team to refine their technology, as well as support field testing next year in Kenya by Jhpiego, a Johns Hopkins affiliate that provides global health training and services for women and their families. A Hopkins press release quotes Soumyadipta Acharya, of the biomedical engineering faculty, as saying the device “has the potential to be a game-changer.” He adds, “It will equip millions of health care workers across the globe to quickly and safely detect this debilitating condition in pregnant women and newborns.”
The team of engineering students that worked on the project included George Chen, Noah Greenbaum, Justin Rubin, Guilherme Barros, William Chen, Judy Doong, Phillip Oh, and David Yin.
The Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge was sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and the Government of Norway.