USAID Announces Developer Challenge To Aid In The Fight Against Ebola


The US Agency for International Development publishes details for a new developer challenge called Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development. The program is being launched in partnership with the CDC, DoD, and White House Office of Science and Technology. The challenge was announced by President Obama during a September 26 speech at the Global Health Security Summit in Washington, DC.

An unfortunate reality with Ebola is that those at the highest risk of catching the disease are the health workers fighting to stop it. Clinicians, and family members caring for the sick, are at a much higher risk than the general community in West Africa. Those that work in clinics and hospitals in affected countries are working in poor conditions with technology that has never been optimized to fight Ebola.

“I’m pleased to announce a new effort to help health workers respond to diseases like Ebola. As many of you know firsthand, the protective gear that health workers wear can get incredibly hot, especially in humid environments. So today, we’re issuing a challenge to the inventors and entrepreneurs and businesses of the world to design better protective solutions for our health workers… And our goal is to get them to the field in a matter of months, to help the people working in West Africa right now.  We can do this.” – President Barak Obama

The new USAID challenge asks innovators and entrepreneurs to submit ideas that will help improve the tools used by these frontline healthcare workers, with an initial focus on improving the comfort of personal protective equipment. To support innovators, USAID has announced that it will establish:

  • An open innovation platform to crowd source and incubate innovative ideas to improve delivery of care and stem the spread of disease, including improvements in PPE.
  • A challenge competition to fund and test innovations for PPE, infection treatment and control.
  • Partnerships for rapid testing and deployment of the best solutions.

An online community has already been established to facilitate discussions on potential solutions. Discussion on the platform is organized under three main goals: strengthening health care capacities, promoting care-seeking behaviors in the community, boost disease tracking in the community. A fourth section of the platform called Surprise Us, is an open forum for brainstorming novel approaches to care delivery.

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