United States Announces Results of Grand Challenge to Fight Ebola

Innovative personal protective equipment solutions selected for funding, testing and deployment

For Immediate Release

Friday, December 12, 2014
USAID Press Office
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: USAIDPressOfficers@usaid.gov | Twitter: @USAIDPress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced today the first nominees for awards in the Fighting Ebola: a Grand Challenge for Development.  Following a rigorous selection process, these innovators have been identified for the solutions they presented to increase the protection and comfort of healthcare workers battling Ebola.

“The Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge embodies our new model of development – bringing together the world’s brightest minds to solve our biggest global challenges,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, who will share a prototype of one of the selected designs at the White House. “By working together with our partners from government, business, and civil society, we are creating innovations that will not only help West Africa’s most vulnerable communities beat the Ebola epidemic, but also break the cycle of extreme poverty.” 

Led by USAID, the Challenge launched in early October and sourced new, practical solutions in partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense. In just two months, innovators from around the world submitted over 1,500 ideas focused on helping frontline health care workers to provide better, more timely care and to contain this devastating virus.  After hearing pitches from top innovators, U.S. Government experts and international partners selected the most promising ideas through a rapid, rigorous review process. This first round of awards focuses on improving the safety and comfort of the personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by healthcare workers and alleviating the heat stress it can cause in the hot, humid climates of West Africa.

Three innovations will receive financial and/or other support and undergo intensive testing to ensure readiness for production and field deployment:

  • Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design (CBID) & Jhpiego
    Healthcare worker suit redesigned for quicker and safer doffing/removal with integrated cooling features utilizing technology from Johns Hopkins University
  • Aquarius GEP LLC and Innovative BioDefense
    Antiseptic that, when applied to skin, provides up to six hours of pathogen protection and serves as an anti-microbial barrier to viral transmission for health care workers
  • SPR Advanced Technologies, Inc.
    Long-lasting, spray-on barrier that kills and repels microbes with electro-static fields to prevent surface contamination and allow for more breathable PPE materials

USAID is also partnering with The Global Good Fund/Intellectual Ventures to rapidly evaluate several cooling solutions, including:  

  • Phase-Change Material Cooling Solutions
    Off-the-shelf, rapidly deployable cooling garments currently used by military that can be worn underneath existing PPE
  • Qore Performance, Inc. (Arterial Cooling Base Layer System)
    An innovative base layer cooling solution from a sports-wear company that cools the body by cooling the blood at pulse points

Through a whole-of-government approach, USAID and our U.S. Government partners are mounting an aggressive effort to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Our goal is to enable the most effective international response possible, using our government-wide capabilities to fight the epidemic on a regional basis. The initial round of award nominations under the Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge focused on solutions to improve the protection and comfort of healthcare workers; additional award nominations for other innovations will be announced in the coming weeks.  

The U.S Agency for International Development’s Grand Challenge for Development initiative crowd-sources solutions to solve clearly-defined problem sets, engaging the world in a quest to discover, incubate, test, and accelerate innovative solutions that have the potential to solve the world’s greatest development challenges.

For updates on the Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge and to follow new opportunities to participate, subscribe here: http://www.usaid.gov/grandchallenges/ebola#mail.