RTI International receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant to develop smartphone technology to determine gestational age at birth

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – RTI International has received a Grand Challenges Exploration grant, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to develop a low-cost, automated method to determine gestational age at birth using smartphone ophthalmoscopy.

It is estimated that up to 40 percent of neonatal mortality in low-income country settings can be prevented with simple, low cost interventions such as Kangaroo Mother Care (i.e. skin-to-skin contact) and breastfeeding. 

"Gestational age is critical to identifying prematurity and growth restriction, so that at-risk babies can receive extra care, yet gestational age dating methods are limited in low-income countries as ultrasound is often unavailable," said Jennifer Griffin, Ph.D., research epidemiologist in RTI's Center for Global Health and the project's principal investigator. "To address this need, we will develop a low-cost, automated method to estimate gestational age at delivery using smartphone ophthalmoscopy, which will determine gestational age based on the disappearance of anterior lens capsule vascularity."

As part of this 18-month project, RTI will assess lens capsule vascularity using image analysis, and develop and validate a predictive algorithm for gestational age at delivery. Smartphone ophthalmoscope lens capsule vascularity gestational age estimation will provide substantial improvements over current methods of gestational age estimation by requiring low skill and time commitments, reducing human error through computer automation, and accurately dating preterm babies.

Grand Challenges Explorations funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that break the mold of traditional approaches to solving persistent global health and development challenges. RTI's project is one of more than 60 Grand Challenges Explorations applications selected to receive grants by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

To receive funding, RTI and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas. 

Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since its launch in 2008, the initiative has awarded grants to over 1,070 projects in more than 60 countries. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. 

 

Highlights

  • RTI International has received a grant, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to develop a low-cost, automated method to determine gestational age at birth using smartphone ophthalmoscopy
  • RTI will assess lens capsule vascularity using image analysis, and develop and validate a predictive algorithm for gestational age at birth