Smartphone app oximeter meets hospital standards
The Phone Oximeter offers hope of preventing thousands of deaths and improving the health of expectant mothers, newborns and children throughout the developing world.
Mr. Irfhan Rajani, CEO of Vancouver-based Coleco Investments, leads a $1 million angel investment in the device, to be matched with a $1 million grant from Grand Challenges Canada — the first such investment under a new $10 million strategic partnership between Grand Challenges Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD).
"Our Government is promoting innovative approaches to addressing the world’s most urgent needs in both global health and international development, including leveraging private sector investment and partnerships that focus on results," said the Hon. Christian Paradis, Canadian Minister of International Development and La Francophonie. "This newest investment is a precise fit with the Prime Minister’s global commitment, through the Muskoka Initiative, to improve the health and lives of mothers and children in the world’s poorest countries."
The Phone Oximeter™, an app and sensor turns a non-specialist, community-level health worker’s smartphone, tablet computer or laptop into an affordable and simple but sophisticated medical-grade diagnostic tool typically available in the developing world only in some hospitals. Source: LionsGate Technologies.
Developed by scientists Drs. Mark Ansermino, Guy Dumont and Peter von Dadelszen of the University of British Columbia, the device measures blood oxygen levels through a light sensor attached to a person’s fingertip. This technique is known as pulse oximetry.
The Phone Oximeter™, using a predictive score, can accurately identify an estimated 80% of cases of pregnant women at risk of life-threatening complications due to high blood pressure. The condition, pre-eclampsia, is one of three leading causes of maternal mortality. Each year, about 76,000 of an estimated 10 million pregnant women worldwide who develop pre-eclampsia die from it and related complications.
The number of fetus and infant deaths due to these disorders is estimated at more than 500,000. "That equates to over 1,600 deaths of pregnant young women and babies every day – an unacceptable burden – and more than 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries – an issue of social justice," said Dr. von Dadelszen.
The Phone Oximeter™ can also reveal dangerously low oxygen levels in patients with pneumonia, which kills more than 1 million children annually.
The $40 target price will make it 80% less costly than any other device capable today of meeting high-level medical standards.
Tests to fine-tune the device will involve monitoring blood-oxygen levels of athletes in training, allowing developers to fast-track its preliminary use. Longer term medical trials of the mobile application and its pre-eclampsia predictive capability will involve 80,000 women in four countries: India, Pakistan, Mozambique and Nigeria.
Grand Challenges Canada’s $1 million contribution comes from funds available under a new $10 million strategic partnership agreement announced today between Grand Challenges Canada and DFATD. The new funds will accelerate the scale up of highly promising health innovations in developing countries. It will also enable innovators to access funding, technical and business support and other resources to accelerate their transition to scale.
After initial funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the innovation was subsequently awarded a seed grant in 2011 by Saving Lives at Birth, a partnership between Grand Challenges Canada (GCC), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Norway and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Grand Challenges Canada extended additional funding in 2012 through a proof-of-concept grant.
LionsGate Technologies: www.lgtmedical.com
Sandra Rotman Centre: www.srcglobal.org
Grand Challenges Canada: www.grandchallenges.ca
Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada: www.international.gc.ca