The Grand Challenge of seeing the world as it could be, not as it is.

Last week we learned we’ve been nominated for a Saving Lives at Birth award from USAID and the other Grand Challenges partners: Norad, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, UKAID and KOICA. We're excited about this opportunity for many reasons -- not least of which because it will support an in-depth collaboration with Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya.

Our goal with this collaboration is to conduct a clinical validation of a new approach to medication management -- using our DripAssist device to monitor gravity IV infusions of magnesium sulphate and oxytocin in an effort to close last mile gaps in reducing mother and child deaths from conditions like eclampsia, pre-eclampsia and post-partum hemorrhage. Saving lives -- pretty exciting.

When we started Shift Labs, we didn’t just want to build devices. We set out to uncover inefficiencies in healthcare -- to find ways to develop and commercialize devices faster and more cost-effectively. This, we believed, was the way to reach more patients worldwide and elevate the level of care while keeping costs low.

The “worldwide” piece is the key -- not just the US, Europe, Japan, but also emerging markets like South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In short: patients everywhere. This is a tricky proposition.

The global health world has a mature research community, with established standards, metrics, and a proven track record on how to create new knowledge that improves health outcomes in the developing world. And on the commercialization side, the medical device industry is similarly mature, with established processes and a proven track record on how to get products to market. But the overlap between these two is lacking: strong, proven models of how to build affordable, reusable devices that improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations -- and get these products to the point where they have broad impact. This is perhaps where entrepreneurship, with its willingness to try new ideas, can have the biggest influence.

Getting from idea to impact for affordable med tech requires flexibility, extensive use of best practices, and exploring new terrain. An example we’ve seen is that commercializing products with affordable price points and that don’t rely on recurring revenue disposables is counter to most existing business models. Much the same way as the pharma industry struggles with artificial mechanisms that keep prices high -- ie recent stories like Mylan and Epi-pen -- the med device industry faces similar challenges. But the power of startups and communities like SLAB is that they don’t look at the world as it is, they see the world as it could be.

We spent last week in DC with a group of researchers, entrepreneurs, medtech executives, and funders committed to building a different world for healthcare -- one that recognizes the importance devices play alongside drugs and diagnostics AND thinks globally about how affordability unlocks larger markets.

We're excited at the prospect of working with the SLAB community and collaborating with KNH to generate clinical evidence. And we are eager to take the next step in our long game of building the pathway to better, more affordable healthcare worldwide.

Learn more about our project here

Find the other nominees here

Beth Kolko

Co-founder & CEO