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EbolaU.S. seeking innovative solutions for protecting healthcare workers on Ebola front lines

Published 15 October 2014

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), saying the agency is looking for opportunities to co-create, co-design, co-invest, and otherwise collaborate in the development, testing, and scaling of practical and cost-effective innovations to help healthcare workers on the front lines provide better care and stop the spread of Ebola. USAID notes that this funding mechanism will not support research that does not provide a clear path to development and testing of prevention and intervention strategies. Awards are in the range of $100,000 to $1million.

The U.S.s Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), saying the agency is looking for opportunities to co-create, co-design, co-invest, and otherwise collaborate in the development, testing, and scaling of practical and cost-effective innovations to help healthcare workers on the front lines provide better care and stop the spread of Ebola.

USAID notes that the federal disaster response community has recognized an opportunity to use open innovation to make significant strides in advancing our ability to combat Ebola.

Health care workers on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic face many obstacles in providing the kind of care to patients which is required to prevent the virus from spreading. These challenges include the stress caused by the personal protective equipment (PPE) they wear, to lengthy infection control measures that leave no room for error, to communities reluctant to seek care.

According to Global Biodefense, USAID is seeking solutions that work to strengthen healthcare capacities and improve care-seeking in the following areas:

  • Developing, testing, and scaling entirely novel PPE or modifications to current PPE that address issues of heat stress and comfort for healthcare workers
  • Accelerating the development and scale-up of approaches to enhance the physical and procedural care environment relating to heat stress, comfort and the safety of healthcare workers and patients
  • Accelerating the development and scale of tools that improve the delivery of care to patients (for example, rapid, point of care diagnostics or more efficient ways of moving samples and communicating results back to health care workers quickly)
  • Developing and scaling behavior change approaches to encourage — and dispel myths and misconceptions that discourage — care-seeking or interacting with health care authorities
  • Improved information management and communication to the community on availability of beds in community care centers or emergency treatment facilities
  • Solutions (new or modified PPE kit or other innovative solutions) that allow much longer work periods, use less PPE, require fewer removals, generate less infectious waste and offer enhanced protection.
  • New innovative barrier materials (e.g., antimicrobial treatments, nano-fibers, novel polymers and coatings, new finishing technologies, application of plasma processing and special reinforcements, using new nonwoven fiber bonding technologies, breathable membranes, etc.) that allow the same level of protection provided by the PPE today, but with higher levels of air and water vapor permeability, and breathability.
  • PPE that is fully reusable.
  • Low cost, next generation sensor technologies to seamlessly assess heat stress noninvasively when wearing PPE, including possible integration into the PPE to provide real-time monitoring and decision making on PPE use.
  • Modified PPE for use in non-health care settings (for example, airport or security checkpoint screening, burials, etc.)
  • Portable personal cooling technologies that can be integrated into or compatible with existing PPE ensembles that are suitable for resource limited environments.
  • Inexpensive, easily cleanable, and integrated powered air purifying respirators equipped with a hood or faceshield that can provide multi-functional protection (facial barrier protection and respiratory protection), while simultaneously cooling the facial region.

USAID notes that this funding mechanism will not support research that does not provide a clear path to development and testing of prevention and intervention strategies. Awards are planned to be in the range of $100,000 to $1million.

The BAA is being executed in partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Centers for Disease Control, and the Department of Defense.

— Read more in the USAID Development Innovation Accelerator BAA for Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development Solicitation Number: BAA-EBOLA-2014 (9 October 2014)