Essential incubator


The project seeks to develop a prototype of an essential infant warming and phototherapy unit that is affordable and adapted to the context of developing countries. 

Hypothermia (low body temperature) is a major cause of neonatal mortality in developing countries. Up to 40% of deaths associated with hypothermia could be prevented by simple adequate thermal management. Skin-to-skin contact (“Kangaroo Care”) that is advocated as the first line intervention to prevent hypothermia is not always possible, especially when phototherapy is also required for the treatment of jaundice. Jaundice affects one of four neonates, especially more severely premature and growth retarded infants. If left untreated, it is one of the main causes of cerebral palsy (Kernicterus) in developing countries. 

Existing incubator and infant warmer technology is costly to buy and maintain and not adapted for the use in the context of developing countries. Instability of local electrical supply causes failures in the equipment’s sensitive electronic control systems, leading to heat loss and significant additional safety problems, as well as to hygiene issues that develop while the ventilation mechanism is off. 

Dr. Pfister, from the Neonatology Unit of the University Hospitals of Geneva, and 4earlylife collaborate on a project that aims to develop an entirely new technical concept for providing thermal therapy combined with phototherapy, one that will be affordable and adapted to the environmental constraints of developing countries. 

The development of the concept and technology is being pursued by an alliance of academic laboratories including the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the Geneva University of Applied Sciences, the Neonatology Unit of the University Hospitals of Geneva and the Essential Medical Devices Foundation (EssentialMed foundation). The project is planned to deliver a prototype that demonstrates feasibility after 2 years. It requires a budget of CHF 1m. So far, the Swiss Government CTI fund has granted CHF 0.2m towards the project.

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Ingeniosity helps babies survive but can turn into a deadly trap