Khalifa University receives Grand Challenges Explorations grant

ABU DHABI: Khalifa University announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill ‘&’ Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Ahsan Khandoker, Assistant Professor in Biomedical engineering will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “A Low Cost Phonogram Device for Screening Fetal Wellbeing.” “One of the things about the world today, is that everyone, even people who don’t have access to regular healthcare, has access to a mobile phone” says Dr. Khandoker. “This device could potentially bring a reliable, fetal monitor into the reach of midwives and doctors in the developing world, which will be extremely helpful, as current methods of fetal assessment are either too brief (i.e., manual counting using a fetal stethoscope) or else require expensive equipment with a skilled operator (Doppler ultrasound). This grant will enable us to develop and test our device in local clinical settings, and eventually to develop a low cost version” continues Dr. Khandoker.

“I am very honoured to receive this prestigious grant, and this wonderful opportunity to develop something that I feel very passionate about, and that will help countless women and their unborn babies.” “One of our goals at Khalifa University is to create and nurture a culture of research and innovation excellence focused on challenges of societal and economic importance” says Dr. Mohammed Al-Mualla, Senior Vice President of Research ‘&’ Development at Khalifa University. “We have identified health as one of our key research priorities and the work of Dr Khandoker confirms our commitment to this important area”.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and persistent global health and development challenges. GCE invests in the early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to solve the problems people in the developing world face every day. Dr. Khandokers’s project is one of over 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 grants announced today by the Bill ‘&’ Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Investments in innovative global health research are already paying off,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill ‘&’ Melinda Gates Foundation. “We continue to be impressed by the novelty and innovative spirit of Grand Challenges Explorations projects and are enthusiastic about this exciting research. These investments hold real potential to yield new solutions to improve the health of millions of people in the developing world, and ensure that everyone has the chance to live a healthy productive life.” To receive funding, Dr. Khandoker and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a creative idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and communications. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10, will be accepted through November 7, 2012.

A Low Cost Phonogram Device for Screening Fetal Wellbeing will see a team of scientists develop a low-cost and non-invasive abdominal phonogram device that will use a mobile phone to determine the well-being of fetuses in developing countries.

The device will measure sound signals from the mother’s abdomen and determine the fetal heart rate, fetal breathing rate and fetal movements, and will alert the mother if there is a problem with the baby and if she needs further obstetric assessment or intervention.

The device will be simple enough to run on the processor of any mid-range mobile phone (the types most common in developing countries), and will use the phone’s own sound system in order to capture and process noises from the fetus.

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