Ebola Innovation

Dan Lucey, 3 May 2015

Three-hundred people participated in the “Ebola Innovation Summit” (April 2015)  hosted by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Skoll Global Threats Foundation, and US Agency for International Development (USAID). They focused on four challenge areas: (1) Data strengthening and coordination; (2) Diagnostics; (3) Social Mobilization; and (4) Emergency Infrastructure and Logistics. Among other things, this event provided insight for the Foundation which, in early August 2014, pledged $100 million to a multi-pronged emergency response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, with more than 20 recipient organizations.

Following the Summit, Paul Allen posted four of the “most important lessons” he took away from the day:
(1) “Innovation comes in all forms”. For example, “Resourcefulness can be innovative. In the absence of IV fluids, oral rehydration solutions used to treat Cholera proved life saving for Ebola patients”.
(2) We need 21st century tools to solve 21st century problems”. For example, leading edge technology must be used to optimize data collection and coordination as well as diagnostic testing.
(3) “No one group can solve a problem of this scale alone”. For example, “African countries pulled together and sent their trained military doctors and nurses to treat those infected.”
(4) “Know the gaps”. It is important to recognize and respond earlier in a commensurate manner earlier in the response phase to an Ebola outbreak.

At the Summit Paul Allen emphasized that the epidemic is not over and committed further funding to fight Ebola. In my opinion, one of the best aspects of the Foundation’s Request for Proposals was the emphasis on including African Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the proposals. Who knows better what is needed most in each of the four challenge areas (especially social mobilization) than the NGO’s and the individuals themselves in the countries hit so hard by this ongoing regional Ebola epidemic?

Daniel R. Lucey MD, MPH 2015


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