USA —GE HealthCare has secured a staggering US$44 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in an epic stride towards improving healthcare accessibility and maternal well-being.

This substantial funding marks a pivotal step in the development of artificial intelligence-assisted ultrasound technology, set to transform healthcare in low- and middle-income countries.

The grant is earmarked for the creation of clinical decision support tools, designed to enhance obstetric and lung ultrasound scans.

These cutting-edge tools will not only cater to maternal and fetal health but also focus on pediatric lung health—a critical aspect of healthcare often overlooked in underserved regions.

Remarkably, the development of these AI tools will be spearheaded by Caption Health, a subsidiary of GE HealthCare renowned for its groundbreaking AI-powered ultrasound interpretation technology.

Caption Health, acquired by GE HealthCare in February for a substantial US$127 million, has already achieved FDA clearance for its system, aiding clinicians in early detection of heart disease through guided echocardiograms.

With this recent grant, Caption Health aims to develop multiple algorithms for lung ultrasound and obstetric applications, substantiated by clinical validation and regulatory approvals.

The overarching goal of these AI tools is to empower healthcare professionals, including those without specialized ultrasound training, to make informed clinical decisions, thereby elevating the quality of maternal and pediatric lung care.

Ultrasound technology plays a pivotal role in maternal care, facilitating the assessment of fetal health markers, gestational age, fetal presentation, multiple gestation, fetal viability, umbilical blood flow, and the detection of ectopic pregnancies.

The broader utilization and accessibility of ultrasound technology have the potential to significantly reduce maternal and infant mortality rates.

Stark statistics from GE HealthCare reveal that in 2020, nearly 800 women lost their lives daily due to preventable pregnancy and childbirth-related causes.

Shockingly, approximately 95 percent of all maternal deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Moreover, in 2019, a staggering 2.4 million infants worldwide succumbed within their first month of life. The transformative impact of this grant extends beyond technology; it’s a beacon of hope for countless lives.

Roland Rott, CEO of Ultrasound at GE HealthCare, affirmed the significance of the grant, stating, “Ultrasound is an essential tool for screening and diagnosis of various medical conditions, including the health of expectant mothers and managing respiratory diseases.”

He emphasized that the grant would expand the reach of Caption’s groundbreaking technology, fostering increased access to high-quality medical care in underserved regions.

Gates Foundation funds Mirvie with US$4.6 million for preeclampsia testing in Africa

In parallel, another groundbreaking endeavor takes flight as Mirvie, a San Francisco-based biotech company, has secured a US$4.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This grant aims to launch critical studies focused on detecting preeclampsia among pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa—an innovation poised to address a pressing global health concern.

Preeclampsia, characterized by persistently high blood pressure during pregnancy or the postpartum period, poses serious and potentially fatal risks if left untreated.

Alarmingly, it disproportionately affects mothers and infants in low- and middle-income countries. This condition, which afflicts 10 million women worldwide, stands as a leading cause of maternal mortality.

The groundbreaking study by Mirvie will employ a non-invasive blood test utilizing the company’s RNA platform to screen for preeclampsia among pregnant women in Cameroon, Ghana, and Zambia.

Notably, a study published in Nature in 2022 demonstrated that Mirvie’s testing method successfully identified 75 percent of individuals at risk of developing preeclampsia.

Alan Tita, study co-lead and director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Mary Heersink Institute of Global Health, emphasized the vital importance of diversity and inclusivity in global maternal health research.

The study holds the potential to drive meaningful progress in curbing maternal mortality on a global scale.

Methodius Tuuli, study co-lead and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Medicine at Brown University, as well as chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Women & Infants Hospital, expressed optimism about the transformative impact of this research.

He envisioned how innovative advancements in pregnancy health could contribute to the greater good, unlocking the potential of personalized medicine for maternal health on an unprecedented scale.

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