Marya Lieberman, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame, has received a Grand Challenges Explorations grant, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Lieberman will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled "Printed test cards for rapid field screening of human and animal medications."
Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Lieberman's project is one of over 50 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 12 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
To receive funding, Marya Lieberman and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 12 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, behavior change and looking into animal and human health. Applications for the next Round will be accepted starting September 2014.
Lieberman's team has designed an inexpensive paper test card that can detect low quality medications and apply economic pressure to companies that manufacture or distribute them. The World Health Organization estimates that 10 to 30 percent of human medications are of poor quality and an unknown percentage of animal medications is substandard or falsified. There is little chance that poor quality products will be caught by pharmaceutical buyers or drug regulatory agencies in developing countries, because it is so expensive to collect and test them, so low-quality products continue to harm both people and animals.
Lieberman's team will design a test card to monitor fifty types of human and animal medicines. Testing a sample of a medication is economical and accessible as there is no instrument to purchase, and the results of the test card can be read by eye or with a cell phone photograph. The test cards will enable people who buy large quantities of human or animal medications to steer clear of low-quality products and will help regulators to hold companies responsible for the quality of the medications they sell.