According to a university news article from The Rice Thresher, Rice University’s Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies (NEST) program is one of four finalists for a $100 million MacArthur Foundation “change” grant. Rice’s NEST program includes innovative, low-cost medical technology like the Pumani bubble CPAP device, which was designed and built by university engineering students and successfully deployed to hospitals in Malawi and 30 other countries in Africa.
The program was created by Rice360° Institute for Global Health, which aims to reduce neonatal deaths in Africa, according to The Thresher.
Rice360o students designed their bubble CPAP device to be affordable and reproducible for Malawi hospitals, beginning with a bCPAP prototype made with a plastic shoebox and aquarium pumps. Later iterations of the device, named Pumani—which means “breath” in the Malawian language of Chichewa—used consumer-grade regulators and aquarium pumps and opted for analog flow meters and gravimetric flow tubes. They also added a sheet metal casing, a flow generator, and a patient interface. The flow generator provides ambient airflow to the infant, and an optional oxygen port allows caregivers to treat patients with supplemental oxygen.
Unlike other devices, however, the entire Pumani system costs less than $400 to manufacture—about 6% of the cost of traditional bCPAP devices, according to Rice 360°.
According to The Thresher, the Pumani CPAP has become the standard device of its kind for hospitals in Malawi, and it has been sold in 30 different countries.
The MacArthur Foundation 100&Change grant is meant to fund a single proposal that promises real and measurable progress in solving a critical problem of our time, according to the Thresher.
NEST was chosen as one of the four finalists out of 1,900 other candidates.