NWGHF recognized at 2012 Chicago Innovation Awards for development of HIV test for babies in developing countries

Immediate Release
October 23, 2012

Chicago, IL— The Northwestern Global Health Foundation received an Up-and-Comer Award as part of the 2012 Chicago Innovation Awards for its development of a new HIV test for babies in developing countries that – unlike conventional tests that are complex and slow to produce results – will deliver a diagnosis in less than an hour.

The foundation is an independent not-for-profit that develops and distributes medical diagnostics for global health applications, based on technologies developed at Northwestern University. It was recognized at an event held at Chicago’s Harris Theater Monday, Oct. 22, with more than 1,000 business and civic leaders attending.

The Chicago Innovation Awards, celebrating its 11th year, is the Chicago region’s foremost recognition of the most innovative new products or services brought to market or to public service each year. 

The foundation was established in 2010 by six Northwestern University colleagues: David Kelso, clinical professor of biomedical engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science; Daniel Diermeier, IBM Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practice and director of the Ford Motor Company Center for Global Citizenship at Kellogg School of Management; Kara Palamountain, executive director of the Global Health Initiative at Kellogg; Matthew Glucksberg, professor of biomedical engineering; Robert L. Murphy, M.D., the John P. Phair Professor of Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine; and Alicia Loffler, associate vice president and executive director of the Innovation and New Ventures Office.

This first-of-a-kind HIV test, developed at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, could dramatically improve the rates at which infected infants are diagnosed and treated. It is a miniaturized, inexpensive version of the p24 HIV test and is designed specifically for use in developing countries. The LYNX p24 has successfully completed evaluation in South Africa and will soon begin evaluation in Mozambique.

Kelso, who led the development of the technology, said that the rapid diagnosis of infants with HIV can be life changing for families. “Within an hour at a clinic, parents would know the outcome of their child’s HIV test,” he said. “For those who walk many miles to get to a clinic, and especially for those who never get their babies tested in the first place, this quick diagnosis can make all the difference in beginning early treatment of the disease.”

“Our mission is to develop health solutions for the developing world, so we are thrilled to receive this award just as we prepare to take the LYNX p24 test to Mozambique,” Palamountain said. “This recognition helps raise awareness for this important biotech advancement, which has the potential to properly diagnose thousands of babies in developing countries who may otherwise never receive timely treatment for HIV.”

“To develop the infant HIV test, a new model of innovation had to be created by bringing together donors, corporate partners, University researchers and engineering and business students,” Diermeier said. “This triangular model creates a self-sustaining revenue stream for social impact innovation.”

The development of this technology is the result of a collaborative effort of several schools and centers at Northwestern, including Kellogg’s Ford Motor Company Center for Global Citizenship, McCormick’s Center for Innovation in Global Health Technologies (CIGHT), the Feinberg School and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. The work also involved extensive collaboration with corporate partners such as Abbott Laboratories and Quidel Corporation and was initially funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“The new products and services brought to market in the Chicago region each year represent the most important economic engine driving the new economy,” said Thomas D. Kuczmarski, co-founder with Chicago journalist Dan Miller of the Chicago Innovation Awards. “The economy is challenging, but each nominee believes the simple truth that a powerful new product will find a rewarding market and each has the courage to pursue their vision.”

The team from the Northwestern Global Health Foundation will join the other winners of this year’s Chicago Innovation Awards in ringing the NASDAQ bell in New York City Feb. 25, 2013.

“This is one way of carrying the message of Chicago innovation to other parts of the nation,” said Luke Tanen, executive director of the awards.

The winners also will meet with Gov. Pat Quinn to discuss their winning product or service and ways to advance innovation in Illinois. There were nearly 400 nominees for the 2012 Chicago Innovation Awards, which cut across all industries, sizes and sectors in the Chicago region. The complete list of this year’s winners can be found at www.chicagoinnovationawards.com.

The Chicago Innovation Awards is supported by sponsors including Wrigley, Comcast Business Class, Disney Institute, Edelman, SmithBucklin and others.
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Contact:  Kara Palamountain k-palamountain@nwghf.org