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Money for medical development

9th October 2007

A US-based university will invest US$100 million to stimulate research into medical technology and public health education in developing countries.

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Rice University will put the funding into an institute to oversee the programmes, under a project entitled "Rice 360°: Technology Solutions for World Health".

Unveiled in September, during the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York the project will begin with US$2 million in start-up funding, and spend the next decade developing its research and educational programmes.

It will then seek further funding to address health problems in the developing world, which Rebecca Richards-Kortum, who is stepping down as the chair of the Rice Bioengineering Department to lead the Rice 360° initiative, described as "urgent, widespread, and complicated".

Richards-Kortum cited studies estimating that 10 million children under the age of five die every year throughout the world and that 98% of those deaths were in developing countries.
 
Many of these deaths, she said, occurred because of a lack of access to appropriate healthcare technologies, ranging from vaccines to diagnostics.

Poor health in the developing world could also be traced back to lack of educational opportunities.

New technologies were desperate to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and gastrointestinal diseases in settings where resources were extremely limited, she said.

New and accessible technology was needed to spur the administration of medicines and vaccines, and to further the detection, monitoring and treatment of diseases.

Improved point-of-care detection of water-borne illness was also needed.

All of these resources would combine to maximise the use of limited healthcare resources in developing countries, she added.

The initiative will spend the next decade developing its research and educational programmes.

The initiative builds on an existing Rice University programme, Beyond Traditional Borders, in which students design technologies in response to the problems that doctors face in the developing world.

Undergraduates, for example, have designed a pump - recently tested in Malawi - to avoid human error and accurately dispense liquid medication according to a child's individual needs.


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