MARCH Researchers make Semi-Final of Competition for $100 Million Grant

Rice1London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in partnership with Rice University, is one of eight groups named as semi-finalists in 100&Change, a global competition for a single $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation. The group’s project to improve newborn survival in Africa was selected from 1,904 applications as one of the eight ‘bold solutions to critical social problems’.

A million African babies die each year, and 85% of these deaths can be prevented with simple technologies that keep them warm, help them breathe, as well as allow diagnosis and care for infections. At current rates of progress, it will take more than 150 years before a baby born in Africa has the same chance of survival as one born in the UK.

Dr. Queen Dube, a paediatric specialist at Malawi’s largest hospital and faculty member at the University of Malawi College of Medicine, said, “Every morning you go to work … knowing what actually works, and then … you’re confronted with 50 or 60 babies. You don’t have the right technology. You cannot do that which you were trained to do, and a baby dies in front of you. It’s very frustrating.”

Rice University began working with Dube and partners 10 years ago to design robust, inexpensive machines and technologies specifically for African hospitals. This collaboration resulted in the plan to develop and implement a 17-piece Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies (NEST) package in Malawi — an integrated group of life-saving neonatal technologies. The 17 technologies, when paired with appropriate clinical care, could prevent most newborn deaths in Africa. More than half of those products in the late stages of development.


A summary of NEST’s solution and an overview video of the project.

Professor Joy Lawn, a paediatrician and researcher from MARCH (Maternal, Adolescent, Reproductive and Child Health) Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, was born in Africa and has been a leader over the last 25 years for improving newborn care in many African countries, and for improved global measurement and investment for women and their babies. She led the first estimates of preterm birth around the world showing that there are 14.9 million babies born too soon, and that Malawi has the highest recorded rates of preterm birth. Professor Lawn and her team will coordinate the evaluation of NEST in Malawi, and in other African countries, as well as the links to global evidence and policy.

“Malawi has the highest recorded rates of preterm birth worldwide, and yet has shown remarkable leadership for newborn care and the developments of these innovative devices. This African country will be the learning laboratory for a package of care that could transform slow progress for newborn deaths all over Africa, and beyond.” — Professor Joy Lawn

100&Change is a unique competition for organizations worldwide to submit proposals promising real progress toward solving a critical problem of our time in any field or any location. There was robust participation: 7,069 competition registrants submitted 1,904 proposals. Of those, 801 passed an initial administrative review and were evaluated by a panel of expert judges. MacArthur’s Board of Directors made the final selection.

“These eight ambitious proposals exemplify the passion, range, and creativity of the hundreds of applications,” said MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “We hope that the competition inspires individuals and organizations to be bold and think big, because solutions are possible.”

Each semi-finalist will next work with an expert team to address questions about their technical and organizational capacity. The expert team will provide feedback to the semi-finalists to inform proposal revision and will submit an assessment to MacArthur’s Board. The semi-finalists will also be asked to show authentic engagement with their target communities and other relevant stakeholders.

“It is our hope that these creative proposals will benefit from expert feedback, technical assistance, and public attention,” said Cecilia Conrad, MacArthur’s Managing Director leading the competition. “And that they attract funding from other sources, even if they do not win 100&Change.”

100&Change was designed to be fair, open, and transparent. The identity of the judges and the methodology used to assess proposals are public. Applicants will learn how their proposal was evaluated and will receive comments from a panel of expert judges. Key issues in the competition are discussed in a blog on MacArthur’s website. A public, searchable database of all the proposals will be posted online later this year.

MacArthur’s Board will select up to five finalists in September. Finalists will present their proposals during a live event on December 11, 2017, before the Board names a single recipient to receive $100 million over up to six years.

The Centre for Maternal, Adolescent, Reproductive, and Child Health (MARCH) is a central hub that brings together over 200 researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to improve the health of women, children, and adolescents worldwide.

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Prof Joy Lawn’s Twitter: @joylawn