Historically, the fight against malaria has been centered around vaccines and bed nets. But ask a team from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Xinova, a network of experts that match ideas with customers, and you’ll find the discussion centering around logistics these days.
It’s a major problem around the world. Malaria kills more humans than all animals combined. To combat it, the Gates Foundation pledged $1 billion last year and assembled teams to address all aspects of the disease, from its origins to its prevention and treatment.
Add in logistics – tracking and shipping supplies to parts of the world with basic infrastructure and often no- to low-tech – and you suddenly have a huge lift when it comes to addressing one of the world’s biggest health problems.
As the two organizations met, new ideas started to come to pass, from supply chain logistics to predictive models that utilize the latest advances in artificial intelligence. Assembled experts came from a wide range of specialties, including computer science, medical devices, procurement and elected officials from state legislatures.
Tapping into Washington’s famed culture of collaboration and creativity, the brain trust tackled the tough issues, finally focusing on problems related to time, quality and viability. The group found that what was simple to fix with technology, was not easy in a paper-based system halfway across the world that couldn’t move data easily between point A and point B.
But there were things the team could do, even where technology was virtually non-existent. QR codes and SMS-based reporting was one of many possibilities since real-time inventory data from a network of remote clinics could be identified and tracked.
The answers are still being refined, but the workgroup reported great progress. Given Washington’s robust technology and life science sectors, combined with global health organizations such as the Gates Foundation and a culture of creativity, it’s a good bet that malaria’s days are numbered.
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