An Indian American-led company was named the winner of the Johnson & Johnson GenH Challenge for Maternal and Child Health.
For winning the global challenge which sought worldwide-relevant solutions to undergoing health challenges, Khushi Baby, led by co-founder and chief executive officer Ruchit Nagar, won $250,000.
Khushi Baby was among 1,061 registrations submitted from across 74 countries, Johnson & Johnson said.
Though currently based in India, Khushi Baby created a potentially life-saving device at the Yale Center for Engineering Innovation & Design, according to a university news release.
The Khushi Baby system includes a necklace with a computer chip inside that stores up to two years of vaccination records for young children.
The system uses near field communication technology to send and receive information through a smartphone, Yale said.
Data is synced to the cloud and displayed on a dashboard accessible to health officials. Even without a connection to a central database, health workers can scan the chip, see the health information and update it if needed, the university added.
The device was developed as part of the course, "Appropriate Technology in the Developing World," designed to tackle ongoing global issues, which was co-taught by Dr. Joseph Zinter, assistant director of the CEID, and School of Engineering and Applied Science lecturer Bo Hopkins.
The company also previously won Yale's $25,000 Throne Prize for Social Innovation in Health (see India-West article here: http://bit.ly/1dytXm9).
Nagar told Yale he was thrilled about the company being named the grand prize winner and his plans for using the money.
“First, we look forward to increasing our footprint on the ground in the district of Udaipur, Rajasthan, where we are already tracking 12,000 beneficiaries across 375 villages with 80 health workers,” he said in the news release.
“With the GenH funds and support from other donors, we are positioned to turn our current initiative into a true model for districts across the state of Rajasthan and across India to replicate and scale,” he said.
Nagar added that, by the end of 2019, the company aims to track the health of at least half the district, approximately 100,000 beneficiaries altogether, and directly integrating the platform into the State Electronic Health Registries for Maternal Child Health and Birth.
He said the company, which is quickly expanding its full-time team, is also interested in developing new technological capabilities, the university noted.
Among those include a QR code-based vaccine registry, facial biometrics for infants, improved clinical-decision support and tracking of high risk mothers and children.
In the earlier interview, Nagar told India-West that at first, his team — Nagar and 2014 Yale graduates Ife Omiwole, Teja Padma, and Leen van Besien — designed a rubber bracelet containing a memory chip. But after determining that necklaces were more widely used, they switched to the pendant model.
“We chose a wearable form factor because it is something that can stay directly with the child, and it is cheap and durable enough to last through the critical ‘1,000-day window’ from birth in which 15-20 doses must be administered,” Nagar explained to India-West.
“The idea of the necklace came from observing children who were already wearing similar spiritual necklaces to promote good health and fortune, and from talking with the mothers in these villages.”
Seeing the success of Khushi Baby (the name means “happy baby”) in India has been especially meaningful for Nagar. “As an Indian American, I am humbled to be reconnected with my roots, and certainly working in India means a lot to me,” he had told India-West.
“It’s a very humbling experience and I'm really glad I have a strong impetus to return to my mother country and give back … Here we have so much luxury, but it should not be so easy to take comfort in them when our brothers and sisters across the world lack basic opportunities and rights — health being the most important of them.”