Broad interdisciplinary training programs which address critical needs in low and middle income countries (LMIC) can significantly increase the translation of research findings into realized health benefits. Northwestern University proposes to establish comprehensive training programs in biomedical engineering that includes identification of critical health care needs, product design, delivery, clinical evaluation, scalablity and product launch. The theme of our program involves the development of effective, affordable, and easy to use innovative biomedical devices that can advance diagnostics, therapeutic interventions and disease monitoring. Our proposal builds on Northwestern's successful original Framework Programs for Global Health (Frameworks-1) which supported the development of a multidisciplinary global health curricula and creation of the Center for Global Health in the Feinberg School of Medicine, the Center for Innovation in Global Health Technologies in the McCormick School of Engineering and the Global Health Initiative at the Kellogg School of Management. Frameworks-1 specifically lead to the close collaboration of clinical and basic research involving medical, engineering and business schools as well as the establishment of the Northwestern Global Health Foundation, an independent not-for-profit which supports post-university commercial development of new healthcare products. Our LMIC partners include the University of Cape Town in South Africa, the University of Ibadan and Lagos University in Nigeria, the University of Bamako in Mali, and the University of Nairobi in Kenya. These LMIC institutions have many existing relationships with Northwestern including active faculty and student exchange programs, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI), and the AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP), among others. The overall goal of this proposal is to provide the tools to develop critically needed healthcare technologies in LMICs.
The specific aims of the proposal are: 1) establish new and enhance existing training programs in biomedical engineering in Africa; 2) train biomedical engineers and medical doctors how to evaluate newly developed testing and treatment products; and 3) train post graduates from business schools to scale up development and launch new products in LMICs. The healthcare technologies to be developed and employed will include any innovation that improves health outcomes and is cost-effective including novel point-of-care medical diagnostic devices, therapeutic interventions, information systems, and telemedicine diagnostics facilitated through mobile phones. Our bottom-up approach and emphasis on South-South research training and assessment makes this proposal unique and ground-breaking. The overall result of these efforts is to develop trans-institutional, cross disciplinary and innovative training programs in biomedical engineering starting with needs assessment and product design, continuing to validation, intellectual property protection, production and finally to marketing and distribution in the LMICs.
Collaborative research across disciplines has fueled many cutting edge fields resulting in major research advances in infectious diseases, cancer, immunology and neurobiology. We propose to establish an interdisciplinary training program in biomedical engineering, medicine and business that will address well recognized gaps in the ability to translate biomedical findings into diagnostic and therapeutic applications capable of improving global health in sub-Saharan Africa.