Here on the ShiftLabs blog, we want to help raise awareness about some great projects that are going on outside of Shift. We’re calling the series “Fund This” and to kick it off, we want to introduce you to the Gravitylight by Martin Riddiford and Jim Reeves.
The Gravitylight exemplifies what Shift Labs stands for: a simple solution to a problem that directly affects people’s quality of life. Many residents of rural communities burn kerosene for light, which is not only expensive, but can result in serious health issues. Riddiford and Reeves have created the Gravitylight as a solution to this problem that does not rely on solar panels or batteries to run, creating a simple, sustainable device that can provide a lasting source of light.
While we know the Gravitylight has already reached (way past) its funding goal, money that the team receives goes directly toward providing Gravitylights for more families, as well as research and development costs for a second iteration of the light. A contribution as small as $10 can help, and for $60, you will receive your own Gravitylight. This is a beautiful, simple solution, that you should learn more about on their indiegogo page before the campaign closes on January 15.
On the Provail factory floor
Yesterday Phil and I made a visit to Provail, a local non-profit that does manufacturing, assembly, and fulfillment for a variety of clients, including Boeing, Cascade Designs, and DOD. Provail trains and employs people with disabilities, matching them with well-paying manufacturing jobs that mesh with their skills.
We learned about Provail from one of the many people who have taken an interest in Shift Labs and offered their help. We love the idea of doing local manufacturing, and we also love the idea of working with a social enterprise.
Machines are beautiful
I visited their facility on the north end of Seattle a couple weeks ago, and this week Phil and went back together to have a design for manufacturing conversation with their staff. We’re working on the housing for the Drip Clip, and we want to make sure we’re aligning our CAD designs with simplicity of manufacture and assembly.
We’re actually super excited about learning to do small-batch manufacturing efficiently and cost-effectively. Part of our mission at Shift is to figure out how to do distributed manufacturing in a scalable way, and we think Provail will be an important partner on that journey.
Also, factories are just cool.
Please support our Indiegogo campaign!
We’re working hard on lining up all the pieces to produce our first prototype in volume for field testing. The Drip Clip is an alternative to expensive infusion pumps, and it’s a way to get precision measurement for IV bags.
The idea for the Drip Clip came from a physician who works with Doctors Without Borders. We’ve discussed it with lots of docs who work around the world, and we’ve done a demo for surgeons, pediatric nurses, and anesthesiologists in Kenya.
We went through a few revisions of the prototype, improving the robustness and reliability. Our bench testing system (below) has been a key part of our engineering, and we’ve worked to improve robustness and reliability.
Prototypes and test rig
Our next step is to get it into the field and see how it performs.
You can help make this happen by supporting us on IndieGoGo! Or, just watch the video describing our process.
This week I attended the PATH POC GHDx Course 2. The class brings point-of-care (POC) diagnostic test designers and POC test users from low-resource settings together for a week-long combination of lectures and lab work. The primary disease focuses are TB, HIV, STIs and malaria. The class performs many benchtop (gold) standard tests (e.g. gram stain, acid fast stain, blood smear) and compares them to the rapid POC alternatives. In addition to the planned curriculum these classes are an opportunity for the test designers and users to discuss the realities of designing, or using, POC tests. It’s inspirational for me as a test designer to hear about the frustrations of clinicians in low-resource settings. No matter how simple, intuitive, and inexpensive my designs look in the lab they are rarely as simple and inexpensive as the test users wish they were. I find this a constant challenge and inspiration for novel engineering. The most valuable part of this course, in my opinion, is the assignment to get into small groups and spent several hours, over a few days, designing a novel POC test. Without the constraints of funding approval or actually needing to show proof-of-concept my team had some truly new ideas that I hope can become integrated into devices in the future.
Earlier this month, Dr Kolko and I attended Life Science Innovation Northwest 2012, a conference put on by Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association. Shift Labs was accepted to give a poster presentation.
The keynote was was given by Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. His talk emphasized the importance of collaboration between private sector and philanthropic organizations. We were pleased to hear about the Foundation’s belief in the power of markets and for-profit entities to find solutions to problems which philanthropists can help take to areas not well served by existing markets.
At Shift Labs we value our relationships with the global health nonprofit sector. Philanthropy is a powerful tool for helping solve problems where markets fail. Even as we work with the non-profit and public sectors, we have something even more ambitious in mind: building the market for low cost medical devices in low resource countries.
It was exciting to see how many people supported our vision!
I co-authored a chapter on biosensors for a new edition of Biomaterials Science, Third Edition: An Introduction to Materials in Medicine edited by Buddy D. Ratner et al. The chapter covers both physical and chemical sensors ranging from non-invasive to in vivo. It focuses on glucose sensors in depth discussing their mechanism and range of designs. Special topics including nanotechnology and biocompatibility are also discussed. The book will be released in November 2012 by Elsevier.
A paper I co-authored was published this week in the journal Lab on a Chip. The paper was the culmination of a 5 year project funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges in Global Health program. Several collaborating groups, including the University of Washington and PATH, developed sample-to-result microfluidic diagnostics devices to test for multiple fever-causing pathogens at point-of-care. Detection of malaria and Typhoid fever were demonstrated from a combination of spiked and clinical samples. If you’re curious about the details but aren’t affiliated with a group with a journal subscription, I recommend another blog that reviewed and recapped the paper providing a good summary and using less jargon.
One of the things we’re really proud of here is our collective excitement about rapid prototyping. We all love making things, and we especially love making things out of stuff laying around. It’s a challenge, to see how much functionality you can get out of a junk drawer.
When we started talking about forming Shift, we began with trying to find a good problem to solve. None of us are especially excited about technology in search of a problem. So we talked to doctors. Lots of them. With lots of experience working in austere settings. (That’s what medical people call ‘low resource environments’.) From all those interviews we identified a couple problems that clinicians face. And from there we did some sketching, and we dug through some drawers, and we roughed up a functional spec, and we built something.
Now we’re iterating that original design, and we’re about to begin working on a housing, and in a few weeks we’re going to try some field tests. But we’re making sure that we still have our hands in the junk drawers, and we’re still building stuff to try out new ideas.
Speed, speed, speed, one of our mentors recently counseled. Fail fast!
And a lot of new vocabulary.
That is all.
Last week I gave a talk at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University on “Hackademia: Leveraging the Conflict Between Expertise and Innovation to Create Disruptive Technologies”. The talk was about the ideas behind Shift, and the journey to starting this venture. It was about innovation, hackers, makers, and why some kinds of disruptive technology need to come out of places other than universities or industry labs. You can watch the talk here, though if you’re short on time (like everyone is), Ethan Zuckerman did his usual awesome liveblogging job here (thanks, Ethan!)
This was a first pass at this talk, and there will be others in coming months. I loved the questions I got, and I also loved the emails that came my way afterwards — including from some docs who were excited about our work and want to join us!
Thanks to my hosts at Berkman and the fantastic audience.