USAID Seeks Help From ‘Maker Movement’ in Ebola Outbreak
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
On a recent Friday, several inventors gathered in downtown Washington with suitcases and coolers full of prototypes designed to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.
A group of Columbia University undergraduates — juniors in biomedical engineering — had manufactured protective suits intended to keep health-care workers from overheating. Fairfax start-up Qore Performance repurposed its wearable cooling pack, originally produced for athletes, to fit into such protective suits.
About 25 teams were pitching their ideas to a panel of judges from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Defense Department as part of USAID’s “Ebola Grand Challenge” — a request for technology that could slow the deadly virus in exchange for a grant of up to $5 million. The agencies are searching in particular for a more advanced suit that can protect health-care workers from Ebola. Especially in the hot, humid climates in affected parts of West Africa, workers struggle to keep protective suits on for more than 40 minutes because of dehydration and overheating, and they are especially vulnerable to the virus at the moment when they remove the suit, according to USAID.
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said that after he returned from overseeing the agency’s Ebola response in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, “it was clear to me if we had better tools and technology that were developed for this purpose, we could be even more efficient and effective.”
- Health Care