Health

September 21, 2023

Child survival: Respiratory technologies for newborns win Nigeria prize for Science

Child survival: Respiratory technologies for newborns win Nigeria prize for Science

By Chioma Obinna

The Advisory Board of The Nigeria Prize for Science on Thursday in Lagos announced a novel scientific work on respiratory technologies for keeping Nigerian newborn babies alive by Professor Hippolite Amadi as the winner of the 2023 edition of The Nigeria Prize for Science.

Amadi wins the Prize worth $100,000. The Prize is sponsored by Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG).

The Prize’s Advisory Board, led by Professor Barth Nnaji, announced the judges’ verdict based on the 2023 theme “Innovation for Enhancement of Healthcare Therapy” at a press conference in Lagos.

Reacting to the development, Mr. Andy Odeh, NLNG’s General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development, said the decision of the judges was a testament to the power of collaboration between the private sector, academia, and the broader scientific community.

He stated that the outcome emphasised the need for collective responsibility to nurture and support innovative solutions that hold the promise of transforming the country, adding that it aligns perfectly with NLNG’s vision of “helping to build a better Nigeria” where ground-breaking ideas flourish, and every life is valued and protected.

“We are honoured and deeply moved by the judges’ decision to recognize the ground-breaking innovation in respiratory technology that has been awarded the Nigeria Prize for Science in 2023.

“This invention not only represents a remarkable leap forward in medical science but also serves as a beacon of hope for the most vulnerable among us – our neonates.

“It reminds us that true progress is measured not only in scientific achievement but in the lives it touches and saves. Today, we celebrate the impact that innovation can have in enhancing healthcare therapy and safeguarding the futures of countless new-borns. At NLNG, we are proud to be part of a legacy that puts saving lives at the forefront of scientific pursuit,” he said.

 On the judges’ report, Professor Nnaji said the work by Professor Amadi has not only significantly advanced neonatal care in Nigeria and similar countries, but it has also further improved access and lowered the cost of neonatal care by causing an observed reduction in the market prices of the competing and existing devices.

“The entry showcased three  technological innovations aimed at saving the lives of neonates by making the delivery of oxygen cheap and easy. The first innovation is the non-invasive Neonatal Ventilator, a key invention (The bubble PoliteCPAP) for continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) ventilation of very low-birth-weight neonates, a feasible alternative to the readily available improvised bubble CPAP (IBCPAP) in cost-constrained settings. The second and third innovations are the Oxygen Delivery Blender System, which allows for the safe delivery of oxygen without the danger of toxicity, and the Oxygen Splitter System, which allows for the use of a shared source of oxygen to many neonates at a time, in situations where piped oxygen is not available. These devices are all solar powered,” he stated.

He stated further that the devices have been tried by practitioners at various hospitals across Nigeria, adding that there are reports from those hospitals that the innovation, PoliteCPAP, is an improvement on the existing device as it provides access to ventilators and oxygen delivery simultaneously to neonates at an extremely reduced cost of N750,000 as against N6.5 million for the existing device with comparable and better efficiency.

 Amadi is a visiting professor of Medical Engineering and Technology at Imperial College London with a special interest in the development of affordable medical systems. Prior to his work at Imperial College, he was a professor of Medical Technology at Imo State University. His career spans over three decades, cutting across engineering in healthcare, orthopaedics, and neonatology research. He is also the author of the book “Born to Live, Not to Die.”

The decision on the winning entry was reached by a panel of judges, led by Professor Joseph Ahaneku, a Professor of Chemical Pathology at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. Other panel members include Professor Olaitan Alice Soyannwo, a professor of Anaesthesia at the University of Ibadan, and Professor Abdullahi A. Abba, a Professor of Medicine and Pulmonology at Ahmadu Bello University.

 On the prize’s Advisory Board, in addition to Professor Nnaji, are Chief Dr. Nike Akande, a two-time minister and former President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and Professor Yusuf Abubakar, a professor of Animal Breeding and Quantitative Genetics and the Coordinator of the Agriculture Group, R & D Standing Committee, at the Tertiary Education Trust Fund.