Innovative ultrasound draws seed funding in Grand Challenge
A project developed by fellows in Tulane’s Inter-American Training for Innovations in Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATIEID) program was one of seven Peru-based initiatives selected to earn $100,000 seed grants from Grand Challenges Canada. Their project will lead to development of low-cost, non-imaging ultrasound techniques to detect pneumonia in children in resource-poor settings.
From L-R: Holger mataya, Monical Pajuelo, Dr. Melena
Correa, and Cynthia Anticona. Standing: Dr. Valerie Paz-
Soldan and Dr. Laura Murphy.
The four post-doctoral fellows are Dr. Cynthia Anticona, Dr. Melena Correa, Holger Mayta, and Monica Pajuelo. IATIEID is directed by Dr. Richard Oberhelman, chair of the Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences, in collaboration with a consortium of universities and organizations in the U.S., Peru, and Argentina.
Rural health facilities in low-income countries are often staffed with inexperienced medical staff with limited accessibility to diagnostic equipment. The symptoms of pneumonia can be very similar to malaria but the diseases are treated differently, making it important to distinguish between them. The proposed technology uses ultrasound which is less expensive than traditional X-ray machines and does not involve radiation exposure. Unlike conventional ultrasound, however, the simplified ultrasound technique would simply scan the chest and give a normal/abnormal result. Artificial intelligence would “train” the device to recognize abnormal scans.
Grand Challenges Canada is modeled after a similar Gates Foundation program. With co-funding from the Peruvian government, the project has earned a little over $200,000 in seed money. If the fellows can show results with the new technique, they could earn additional resources to bring their idea to full development.
Although fellowships will end for this cohort in October, Oberhelman says that this project has effectively launched the group into their future careers and Tulane faculty and other partners will continue to collaborate with them as they move forward. Candidates with or anticipating a terminal degree in their field can look for applications for the next cohort to open in spring 2015. Preference is given to applicants affiliated with one of the consortium institutions, but may be drawn from any discipline. Fellows must be fluent in English and conversant in Spanish.
The program also recently drew additional funding from the Fogarty International Center, which supports the main grant. Fogarty’s Global Health Research and Research Training eCapacity Initiative will improve existing Fogarty-funded distance education and mobile health platforms in Argentina and Peru, with the intent of producing novel telediagnostic and research applications.
Dee Boling is director of communications for the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
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May 15, 2014