It may be safe to say that 2020 was a different year for many of us. We faced, and are still facing, a pandemic, a new way of living and working, and we’re experiencing what it’s like to have an overburdened healthcare system. This may be new to a lot of people in the Western world, but this is something that many countries have experienced for decades. As GOAL 3, we are trying to change exactly this. It is one of the main reasons we need monitoring systems that fit these low resource settings, to try and take a part of the load off of the health workers. This is why, in the summer of 2020, we have set up a research consortium with some of the biggest players in the field (listed below). Together, we applied for the EDCTP grant, which is supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, that focuses on: “Funding clinical research for medical tools to detect, treat and prevent poverty-related infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa”.
Although 2020 was a tough year, for us, the year ended with a bang with the following message:
Dear Dr Calis,
I am pleased to inform you that your proposal RIA2020I-3294 titled “An Innovative Monitoring system for PAediatrics in Low-resource settings: an Aid to save lives.” submitted to the “RIA2020I” Call has been favourably evaluated and that EDCTP would now like to start the grant preparation.
This message marks an enormous milestone in the history of GOAL 3, as it means that the EDCTP pledged to grant a €3,44 million subsidy to the research proposal of the IMPALA consortium. The aim of this research project is to develop the IMPALA monitoring system for monitoring hospitalized children in low resource settings.
The consortium was formed around the GOAL 3 monitoring concept, led by AIGHD, the paediatric intensive care department of the Amsterdam University Medical Centre and GOAL 3. Together with these great partners, we were able to secure partnerships with some world-renowned institutions from Europe and Africa to co-develop and co-create the IMPALA monitoring system. The full list of partners can be found at the bottom of this blog.
The meaning of this for GOAL 3 cannot be underestimated. Not only does it provide a significant part of the funding needed for developing our IMPALA monitoring system, but it also gives us access to the best people and research units active in this field. The knowledge, expertise and assets represented by our partners are unique in many ways and complementary to each other.
Last but not least we have secured the support of key opinion leaders and major stakeholders like the ministry of health and AMREF in the advisory boards of this consortium. Not only will this help us to develop the system in close connection with their needs, but it will also pave the road towards implementation and commercialization at a later stage.
What is the IMPALA project?
More than 3 million children in low-resource settings (LRS) die annually due to contextual constraints in LRS healthcare systems that hamper the widespread supply of high-quality healthcare. Many of these deaths are advanced stages of poverty-related diseases that are recognised too late to be treated effectively while treatment usually is available. Monitoring of vital signs is essential for early detection of critical illness as vital signs change early in the course of disease.
Shortage of (qualified) staff and lack of suitable equipment are the main bottlenecks to monitor these children adequately during admission. Current monitoring systems widely used by clinicians in high-resource settings are not suitable for LRS due to their high costs and poor compatibility with LRS settings.
The IMPALA project will address this problem by developing an affordable, durable, and user-friendly monitoring system (IMPALA) for hospitalised children in LRS. By combining innovative sensors, machine learning algorithms and point-of-care biomarkers we create a smart, yet simple, monitoring system that enables health workers to timely detect and predict critical illness.
With whom are we doing this?
In this project, we managed to create a world-class consortium with renowned research institutes which have highly relevant knowledge and experience in this field. IMPALA’s impact will be assessed in two clinical centres in Malawi (Blantyre and Zomba) which is an LRS country and a centre of WHO validation trials. IMPALA partners have expertise in paediatric intensive and emergency care, sepsis, vital sign monitoring, and design and prototyping of technologies for use in SSA. Specifically, the IMPALA consortium consists of these partners:
- Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development; main applicant, the interdisciplinary Global Health research institute of two Amsterdam universities and brings expertise in clinical epidemiology (study design, analysis), implementation of research in LRS and coordination of complex multi-country research and capacity building projects, including EDCTP grants.
- Imperial College London; strong research partner with historic data sets regarding critical care and emergency care for children in low resource settings. Has developed a unique point of care biomarker for evaluation if an infection is bacterial or viral.
- College of Medicine Malawi; strong clinical partner from Malawi, responsible for the execution of the study, the guidance of PhDs. This is an important site for testing of WHO policies for Africa.
- Polytechnic; department of biomedical engineering from the University of Malawi. They have experience in training and educating local clinicians and in involving end-users for designing medical devices catering to local needs.
- Training and Research Unit of Excellence; a not-for-profit research organisation. Located in Zomba which is a rural setting. It has established a Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) with a dedicated research manager and safety officer (pharmacist).
- GOAL 3; The only commercial party in this consortium, responsible for system development, development and integration of algorithms and commercialization following development.
The future for our mission
We believe in this consortium and in the goals we have set with this grant proposal. It is very important for people all over the world that the healthcare system changes from within so that healthcare becomes accessible for all human beings. We as GOAL 3 have set our goal for 2030: to increase access to care for 100 million people by enabling and empowering 1 million health workers. The IMPALA project will increase our chances of success significantly, and with these partners, we are highly confident to make the change that is needed worldwide. Because — We All Health.
This project is part of the EDCTP2 Programme supported by the European Union