Improving health in the developing world requires access to affordable equipment for translational research, diagnosis, and treatment. Currently, serendipity and charisma play an outsized role in equipping users with devices. A functional supply chain that can quickly link all web-connected users with a wide range of innovative, reasonably-priced devices well-suited to their needs means better health outcomes in low-resource settings.
Despite a recent surge of innovation in biomedical devices for this audience, the existing supply chain is both highly fragmented and heavily dependent on established manufacturers and distribution networks.
While developers are keen to deploy their devices as widely and quickly as possible — for field-testing and revenue-generation as well as improving health outcomes — they face daunting challenges. Innovators of the least-costly devices in particular may have little business acumen, few connections, and tiny budgets, if any. The significant lag time between invention and distribution through established channels is a high barrier to entry. Much useful intellectual property is undoubtedly abandoned as innovators become discouraged and move on to other pursuits with more tangible rewards.
End users want access to the best devices for their needs, so being able to source a wide variety of options and evaluate their suitability through user feedback are high priorities. Many clinics, hospitals, and labs in the developing world are now equipped — to whatever extent they are — with second-hand devices provided by charity-minded first-world physicians, institutions, NGOs, and others that may be outdated and ill-suited to their settings due to lack of reliable electricity, training, parts, supplies, technical support, or other requirements.
BioMedLink aims to bridge the gap between device innovators, end users, and those who fund, manufacture, and distribute biomedical devices in the developing world.
BioMedLink.net is an interactive, open-source platform designed to provide:
- A comprehensive database of biomedical devices for use in low-resource settings, at various stages of development from field testing to full deployment;
- User feedback about the performance of each device in diverse settings (e.g., urban/rural, hot/cold, humid/dry, windy/still, un/reliable power supply, and the like);
- Country-level mapping of device deployment searchable by various criteria (e.g., category, stage of development, manufacturer, price range)
- Stakeholder support (e.g., mentoring and strategic communications for device innovators, facilitation of IP licensing and sales to device manufacturers, research for funders, governmental, and non-governmental organizations)
BioMedLink is Terry Mandel and Lisha Sterling.