Supporting innovation to save newborn babies

by Trang Chu Minh | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Saturday, 10 September 2016 12:06 GMT

Amit Dave / Reuters

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Microsoft’s in-house legal team and specialist healthcare and intellectual property law firm Ashu Thakur & Associates partnered with Bempu Health to patent an innovative temperature monitoring bracelet, and to support their commercialisation strategy in the fight to reduce child mortality in India. 

According to figures by the World Health Organisation, newborn deaths account for 41 percent of all child deaths before the age of five. In India, one third of babies are born at a clinically low birth weight and are consequently exposed to high risks of neonatal hypothermia and infection - conditions that are among the top causes of infant illness and death in resource-poor countries. Regular temperature monitoring is a simple and effective method to prevent these deaths, however access to temperature monitoring devices is scarce, as is skilled care to improve parents’ awareness of preventative healthcare measures.

To address these deficiencies in infant healthcare, Bempu Health, an Indian social enterprise, developed an intuitive, low-cost temperature monitoring bracelet for newborns, which detects the slightest temperature drop and alerts care-givers in the event of cold stress. “As of May 2016, we have distributed the hypothermia alert device among more than 100 public and private health centres across India and helped protect around 1,500 babies in 11 states. This is a remarkable first step towards achieving our organisation’s five-year goal of preventing 10,000 deaths and 1 million instances of hypothermia,” says Ratul Narain, Founder of Bempu Health.

Bempu required legal guidance on India’s intellectual property frameworks and patent applications before they launched the invention. The connection to pro bono assistance facilitated by TrustLaw was swift, allowing for the early commercialisation of the product in advance of the original launch date. The comprehensive legal advice also helped Bempu get selected as one of the 17 awardees for the USAID Saving Lives at Birth grant

“Recently, we had a mother in Karnataka whose first baby had died from an infection detected too late. Her second baby was given the temperature monitoring bracelet upon discharge from the hospital, which allowed for the early detection of a gastro-intestinal infection and timely hospital treatment”, adds Narain. “For mothers in low-resources settings who are not aware of hypothermia and don’t have the hospital care available to them, we feel we are saving lives,” adds Narain.  

The project won the 2016 TrustLaw Innovation Award.