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When it comes to global health, much attention is now focused on Ebola. But more routine diseases take a toll on the
world's poorest people every day. In Seattle, there's a not-for-profit group trying to develop new tools and medicines tocombat them.
The " NewsHour" 's Cat Wise has the story, another report in our Breakthroughs series, which explores inventions andinnovation
both here and abroad. All we need is salt, water, and electricity to make this product work.
With just those three ingredients, this small device produces concentrated chlorine, a powerful disinfectant. The manbehind the
product, Glenn Austin, says it took years to develop, but now there is a greater need for chlorine in parts ofWest Africa because of the
Ebola outbreak,and this device may one day soon be helping to meet that demand. We are really thinking about how quickly we
canmove, because there's a sense of urgency here. Chlorine is probably the most widely accepted universal disinfectant.It's great.
You can treat water with it and you can treat surfaces with it. And that is the preferred application for infectioncontrol and disease outbreak
control. The Electrochlorinator is just one of the many products turned out by a globalhealth nonprofit in Seattle, Washington, called PATH.
For more than 30 years, the organization has been developing innovative medical devices, drugs, vaccines, anddiagnostic equipment
for use in low-income countries. The fact that some people have access to lifesaving devices andother people don't is simply wrong, it's
unfair, and it's correctable.
Steve Davis is president and CEO of PATH. He says one of the organization's most successful products could come inhandy in fighting
the Ebola outbreak if a vaccine using a live virus, that has to be kept cold, is developed.It's a tiny heatsensing sticker that tells health workers
if a vaccine is no longer effective. It's been used on five billionvaccine vials over the past two decades. It turns out, in food, in frozen chicken,
they have something on the package toshow that if it had been thawed or unthawed.
So we took that idea and now, by having a vaccine vial monitor, this little dot, we can actually tell whether that vaccinehas got too hot, and
therefore we wouldn't use it if it's changed colors. And so that's — that's been really critical, savedliterally millions of lives.
PATH got its start in the 1970s bringing reproductive health technology to rural China. Today, the organization has 1,200employees, a mix of
scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, businesspeople, and health policy experts.
They work in more than 70 countries on issues such as clean water and sanitation, maternal and newborn health andneglected diseases. They
often collaborate with public and private sector partners on the development, funding anddistribution of products.
So, welcome, this is PATH's product development shop. Mike Eisenstein manages the workshop where many of PATH'shealth tools have emerged after months, sometimes years of research, development, testing, and old-fashioned tinkering.
We're looking for solutions that are sustainable, that are easy to use. They're low-cost, very sturdy, very affordable. Sowe try and mimic all the settings where they will be used, how are the technologies we develop going to react to dust, tohigh humidity, to temperature, things like that.
Eisenstein says the end users, often women and children, are what drive the inventions and designs. He showed us howthat played out during the development of a new version of a decades-old female contraceptive. The challenge in thisparticular case was, really, diaphragms come in many different sizes, and in developing countries, it's especially hard,you know, finding a doctor and then getting sized for a specific diaphragm.
What we did was, we designed a diaphragm with the idea of it fits most of the female population. Another tooldeveloped in the workshop project is the Uniject, aimed at low-skilled health workers administering shots. Steve Brookewas one of the product developers.
It's unique in that its completely self-contained. The dose of vaccine or the lifesaving medicine is already filled in thislittle bubble. So the health care worker doesn't have to measure the dose, take the time to find a different syringe.
Once you have made the injection, it's designed such that you cannot refill it, because reuse of syringes is a significantproblem in developing countries. Down the hall from the workshop is PATH's lab, where scientist Manjari Lal isdeveloping methods to freeze-dry certain vaccines and drugs.
The resulting tablets, which would eliminate the need for refrigeration and skilled health workers to administer shots orI. V. s, could be a game-changer, according to Lal. We need to conduct some clinical studies to really demonstrate if thistechnology has value.
But, yes, I mean, this is easy, packaging-wise, administration-wise, and storage, especially in places like sub-SaharanAfrica or Africa in general, where the temperatures run so high, if we have a product which is stable, heat-stable, I mean,it can indeed save a lot of lives.
Saving through the use of innovation was a big theme at a recent PATH event honoring supporters and donors. Duringhis speech, CEO Steve Davis spoke about the need for better health systems in the world's poorest countries.
Health inequity is generating all sorts of challenges to economic development and it's generating a lot of politicalinstability, and we have to address that. And certainly the situation in West Africa in Ebola is demonstrating that very,very much.
But while Davis says the Ebola outbreak deserves attention and better resources from the international community, heworries that other longstanding global health problems will be overshadowed. We have to keep in mind that far, farmore children and women and families will suffer from and die from other diseases far more than Ebola.
And that's because malaria and diarrhea and pneumonia and other things are killing far more people in that region. Alot of the work to support and help all those other conditions has come to almost a complete stop.
Over the coming months, Davis says PATH will continue to stay engaged in the Ebola outbreak, while launching a majornew effort to eliminate malaria, a disease that kills hundreds of thousands each year. CAT WISE for the " PBSNewsHour" in Seattle.
Online, see PATH CEO Steve Davis' idea for another medical breakthrough. That video is on the Rundown.