11 'inspiring' mhealth innovators emerge from competition

By Eric Wicklund
09:59 AM
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The mHealth Alliance and Rockefeller Foundation announced the winners of The Top 11 in 2011 Innovators Challenge Dec. 5 at the mHealth Summit here in the nation's capital. They include innovations from text messaging to nanoscopy. The innovators work around the globe, from Indiana and California, to Madras and Kenya.

The winners were selected through an online nomination process, launched Oct. 5 on HealthUnbound.org (HUB), which sought individuals “who have used mobile technology in innovative ways to improve health systems and outcomes, particularly in the most remote areas of the world.” The list was pared to 30 candidates and presented for a week of public voting, then pared  to 11 by a selection committee.

“Nominations have come from more than 30 countries around the world, including many low-income countries,” said Karl Brown, associate director of applied technology at the Rockefeller Foundation and member of the alliance’s partnership board. “We are positive that the top 11 will be an inspiring set of role models for this quickly evolving field.”

Unveiled during a special Sunday evening reception prior to Monday’s launch of the mHealth Summit in Washington D.C., the 11 winners are:

  1. Alain B. Labrique, director of the Global mHealth Initiative at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Labrique, who also serves on the faculty of the Global Disease Epidemiology and Control Program of the Department of International Health, is the creator of mCare, an integrated mobile phone pregnancy and infant health information system.
  2. Anne Roos-Weill, co-founder and CEO of Pesinet. A former Alcatel-Lucent executive and corporate engagement manager for the UK charity The Environment Council, she developed Pesinet, which combines local resources and mobile telephony to improve care and reduce child mortality in Mali. The venture was selected for the international finals of the Global Social Venture Competition in Berkeley, Calif.
  3. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras. A graduate of the University of Maine, he leads the Telecommunications and Computer Networks group (TeNeT) at IIT, Madras, which has helped launch more than 35 companies over the past quarter-century, and chairs the Rural Technology and Business Incubator (RTBI) at ITT Madras and the Mobile Payment Forum of India (MPFI). He also serves on the Indian Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Committee.
  4. Aydogan Ozcan, an associate Professor at UCLA. An author and the holder of 17 issued patents and another 12 pending for inventions in nanoscopy, wide-field imaging, lensless imaging, nonlinear optics, fiber optics and optical coherence tomography, Ozcan develops cost-effective and portable microscopy and diagnostics tools for telemedicine applications in Africa, South America and India.
  5. Bright Simmons, the founder of mPedigree, a mobile phone and cloud computing platform designed to combat counterfeit drugs by providing instant, free access via text-messaging to a drug quality verification system in Africa and South Asia. His work is channeled through his mPedigree Network and the IMANI research institute, ranked as one of the world’s 20 most innovative think tanks.
  6. Derek Treatmen, a field investigator for Dimagi, Inc. A graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, l’École Supérieure d’Électricité (Supélec) in France and Rutgers University, he developed CommCare Sense, multimedia applications using locally recorded audio messages and culturally appropriate imagery that are used by community health workers to spread information on maternal and child health in low-literate areas of India.
  7. Eric Woods, CEO and founder of Switchboard. A UC San Diego graduate and co-founder of the medical device start-up EconoMEDics, he launched Switchboard’s MDNet program to allow nearly every doctor in Ghana and Liberia to call or text any other doctor for free. The resulting nationwide doctor directories also allow government administrators to send critical information straight to doctors’ mobile phones and collect data in real time.
  8. Isaac Holeman, chief strategist for Medic Mobile, a non-profit that uses mobile technology to strengthen health systems in the developing world. A resident of Oregon who spends half of each year in Africa, he developed the Medic Mobile SIM card, whose applications provide structured information on low-cost phones in Malawi and Cameroon.
  9. Joaquin Blaya, co-founder and CIO of eHealth Systems, a Chilean company that offers eHealth strategies and open-source solutions to developing companies. A graduate of MIT and collaborator with Partners in Health, as well as a Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School and a moderator of the Global Health Delivery Project Health IT community of practice, he helped launch MiDoctor, which connects patients in low-resource settings to health centers through automated phone calls, texts and e-mails, offering information on non-communicable diseases.
  10. KS Shankar, an engineer planner who works for the Karnataka State Government in India. He has initiated a number of IT activities for health officials, including am mother-and-child tracking system through SMS mobile technology and a mobile messaging system for auxiliary nurse midwives in India.
  11. Martin Were, an assistant professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a research scientist at the Regenstrief Institute. A practicing physician who completed internal medicine residency training at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, he helped develop AMPATH’s mHealth Programs, which use Android-based smartphone technology for clinical data capture and patient-specific abstracts, reminders and alerts in western Kenya.