Sunday, December 14, 2014

“Grand Challenge” to Innovate the Fight against Ebola

A few months ago, the United States Agency for International Development launched another in its series of "Grand Challenges": the Ebola challenge. Due to public interest in Ebola, the USAID received over 1,500 submissions - the highest number they'd ever had. Inventions feature better protective suits, an antiseptic skin gel, and a spray-on microbe barrier. The descriptions of the new cooling undergarments and more breathable suits remind me of what Dr. Colin Bucks, the Stanford physician who fought Ebola in West Africa and was put under quarantine upon his return, showed us over Skype. This is a fascinating trend into the crowdsourcing of solutions to major, complex problems such as this Ebola outbreak. However, due to the less than expert, untested ideas, could this money and time have been better invested elsewhere? Or should we draw upon the public creativity more in the future?

One of the protective suits submitted to the Grand Challenge
Credit: John Hopkins University/Jhpiego

Tina Ju

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