The PandemicTech Newsletter: October 2020

by Andrew Nerlinger and Lisa McDonald

Photography: “A Pandemic of Ignorance”. Location: Mexico City, Mexico. Artist unknown. September 2020.

As we enter what appears to be the third wave of COVID-19 in the United States, PandemicTech senior advisor Luis Ochoa Carrera sent the above photo to remind us that we are not only battling the virus itself but also broad misinformation and lack of information about the pandemic. COVID-19 has been a pandemic of ignorance, and fighting COVID-19 requires creating innovative approaches to communication alongside scientific and technological advances. We recognize the need for ideas that support communication, inclusivity, and access to opportunities to solve COVID-19 related challenges, and we are thrilled to announce three new PandemicTech Innovation Fellows who are focused on improving communications and creating opportunities for local innovators to solve challenges within their own communities. We are also excited to introduce Senior Advisor Sarah (Michel) Gerwig as a part of the PandemicTech team!

Street Art: “Wash ya hands” at Barton Springs Saloon, Austin, Texas. Media: Graffiti on tile. September 2020.

Introducing: Senior Advisor Sarah Gerwig

We are excited to announce that Sarah (Michel) Gerwig has joined the PandemicTech team as a Senior Advisor! Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Sarah attended the University of Texas at Austin prior to moving to Houston to obtain her Masters in Public Health at the University of Texas School of Public Health. Sarah is a global health expert and entrepreneur with over 12 years experience in academic health science and global innovation in the world’s largest medical center, and holds a patent for deployable mobile clinics and laboratories (SmartPod) initially utilized for Ebola response in W. Africa. Sarah has generated over $6 million in funding and 10 new partnerships in Houston, South and Central America, Europe & Africa.

Sarah identified, co-wrote, and obtained over $3 million in grant funding for Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and managed project execution and funding from USAID and Paul Allen Foundation grants as Director of Business Development for Baylor Global Health’s Innovation Center. She drove innovative concepts from grant writing and design phase to prototype development, scale up and commercialization pathways. She worked directly with Legal, Licensing & Technology Offices to manage a portfolio of low-cost technologies and products that fit within the pod. She strategically developed, planned and executed successful global health hackathons while collecting data and indicators on models to build educational curriculum and develop pathways for technologies developed during hackathon while addressing health challenges in low resource settings and bringing together multi-disciplinary teams from across the globe.

Most recently, Sarah was Adjunct Instructor and Associate Director of Global Medical Innovation in the bioengineering department at Rice University. While there, Sarah created a new curriculum and taught a graduate course (Career Prep for Industry) based on consistent pain points identified from over 50 graduate students during their job search process. She also Co-Directed and managed a $1.5 million budget and daily operations for 1-year MBE program, generated over 100k in new funding for bioengineering department, developed four Sponsored Research Agreements (SRAs) with Texas Medical Center (TMC) partners, partnered with Costa Rican Investment Promotion agency to design, manage and teach for the Costa Rica Summer Institute (a program for Rice & Costa Rican bioengineers to take classes and complete internships with medical device companies).

The Baylor Global Health Smart Pod

Introducing: PandemicTech Fellow Fatima Aziz

Fatima Aziz, Research Coordinator at Aga Khan University and PandemicTech Innovation Fellow 2020

Fatima Aziz, student at the University of Karachi and a Research Coordinator in the Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory at Aga Khan University, has been awarded a PandemicTech Innovation Fellowship for 2020 to support her efforts to develop technology-driven communications that improve biosafety and biosecurity training capacity in Pakistan.

Fatima is a Ph.D. student in microbiology at the University of Karachi where she currently studies respiratory viruses. She is concurrently a Research Coordinator in the Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory at Aga Khan University and has served as an American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Young Ambassador to Pakistan. Fatima has been a mentor for the Global Health Security Initiative NextGen Mentorship Program, holds certifications from the International Federation of Biosafety Associations (IFBA) and the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), and has trained internationally in the United States, UAE, Kenya, United Kingdom, and South Korea.

Introducing: PandemicTech Fellow Raphael Garcia

Raphael Garcia, Operations Assistant at New Venture Institute at Flinders University and PandemicTech Innovation Fellow 2020

Raphael Garcia, Operations Assistant at New Venture Institute (NVI) at Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia), has been awarded a PandemicTech Innovation Fellowship for 2020 to support his work designing and manufacturing innovative diagnostics for neglected tropical diseases. He has collaborated with Dr. Endalamaw Gadisa, a microbiologist at the Armauer Hansen Research Institute (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), to develop a new low-cost rapid diagnostics test kit for Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (CL). This test kit utilizes a Micro-Culture testing method which reduces overall diagnostics costs while being more sensitive and faster than other commonly used testing methods for this disease.

Raphael has extensive experience in product design, prototyping, and product validation through the use of additive manufacturing (3D printing) and design thinking methodologies. He is a facilitator for the award-winning Flinders University New Venture Institute’s Innovative Manufacturing Accelerator program and the eNVIsion Business Incubator Program, which assists businesses in finding pathways to solutions and sustainable growth. He earned a B.Eng. in Mechatronics Engineering from the University of Adelaide.

Introducing: PandemicTech Fellow Aniegbe Ifenna

Aniegbe Joel Ifenna, a medical student at the University of Nigeria Nsukka and PandemicTech Innovation Fellow 2020.

Aniegbe Joel Ifenna, a medical student at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, has been awarded a PandemicTech Innovation Fellowship to support his work creating the Lion Science Park Health Hub at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. Launched in October 2020, the Lion Health Hub is an initiative aimed at stimulating and facilitating students to develop and implement innovative solutions to community health challenges. As part of this fellowship award, PandemicTech provided support for the Lion Health Hub’s kickoff event, a healthcare hackathon focused on COVID-19 response, mental health, and reproductive health.

Aniegbe is a passionate entrepreneur with experience launching industry-first disruptions. He is currently pursuing a bachelors degree in Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He has received both national and international recognition for his efforts to promote health innovation in Nigeria, including the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency’s Office for ICT, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award Certificate, an Ashoka Foundation certification award, and an award from the National Economic Summit Group. His multidisciplinary background in medicine and business development has allowed him to engage in the development and commercialization of several products and services that optimizes public health, productivity, business growth, and social impact.

TEXGHS Virtual Launch

TEXGHS Virtual Launch Event, October 6th, 2020 via Zoom

We would like to congratulate the Texas Global Health Security Innovation Consortium (TEXGHS) on an incredibly successful virtual launch event on October 6th! The event brought together prominent speakers from around the globe to discuss the importance of supporting innovation in the fight against COVID-19. These speakers highlighted how TEXGHS has created a unique innovation ecosystem that brings together academic, public, and private sector partners to respond to COVID-19 and help prevent the next pandemic:

Keynote speaker:

  • Peter Hotez— Dean, National School of Tropical Medicine

Speakers:

  • Moredreck Chibi— World Health Organization (WHO) Africa Innovation Lead
  • Adriana Cruz — Office of the Governor of the State of Texas
  • Sarah (Michel) Gerwig — TEXGHS and CEO, UpGlobal Consulting — Event moderator
  • Jay Hartzell — President, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Donna Howard — House Member, Texas House of Representatives
  • Clay Johnston— Dean, Dell Medical School, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Verena Kallhoff— Texas Health CoLab, Dell Medical School — Panel moderator
  • Lisa McDonald— TEXGHS and Director of Healthcare, Austin Technology Incubator

To watch a replay of the event:

UN General Assembly 2020 — UNAIDS Virtual Event

The PandemicTech team was featured prominently during the UNAIDS Health Innovation Exchange (HIEx) virtual event on “From Local to Global: Models for Scaling Health Security Innovations” during the U.N. General Assembly 2020. Andrew Nerlinger moderated an outstanding panel that included Lisa McDonald discussing TEXGHS and PandemicTech Innovation Fellow Ikpeme Neto sharing his story founding Wella Health. PandemicTech partners Techstars, Social Alpha, and Ventures Platform joined and helped organize a successful event that was viewed by over 50 country missions to the United Nations. The event concluded with the announcement that Ikpeme Neto and Indian digital health entrepreneur C. Bernard of Bangalore-based startup Ibhar would receive HIEx PandemicTech 2020 Awards for Scaling Health Innovations.

WHO Strategic Partnership for IHR and Health Security

WHO Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Michael Ryan addresses participants in the September 2020 WHO-organized virtual event on health security and resilience during the UNGA2020

PandemicTech was honored to join U.N. member states and health security partners for the World Health Organization event on “Sustainable preparedness for health security and resilience: Adopting a whole-of-society approach and breaking the “panic-then-forget” cycle” during the U.N. General Assembly 2020. PandemicTech is proud to be a part of the WHO Strategic Partnerships for International Health Regulations (IHR) and Health Security Program, and will continue to support WHO efforts to promote health security and community resilience.

GHS2022 Conference

The Global Health Security Network has made the difficult decision to postpone the next Global Health Security conference to June 2022. PandemicTech applauds this decision and is confident that the global health security community will be able to safely convene in person in Sydney for GHS2022!

In The News

Congratulations to Angel Desai, who was selected to speak during the 2020 Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Ministerial Meetings as a mentor for the GHSA NextGen mentorship program.

Lisa McDonald was featured in numerous media outlets for her role leading the formation and launch of the Texas Global Health Security Innovation Consortium:

Lisa McDonald and Andrew Nerlinger were featured in “Lone Stars on the Medical Frontier”:

Lisa McDonald was featured on the Project Medtech podcast:

Lisa McDonald, MD: Founder of Endura Ventures and Director of Healthcare Incubation at the Austin Technology Incubator — — Episode 14

Oyewale Tomori discusses his role in leading Nigeria’s journey to successful polio eradication:

Blaine Doyle was a featured speaker for the Ireland-Mexico Trade Conference 2020:

Amal Kasry was lead author on a scientific article on her team’s successful use of a single monoclonal antibody for enhanced detection of the cardiac biomarker troponin I:

Ikpeme Neto and Wella Health received the UNAIDS HIEx and PandemicTech health security award for pandemic preparedness and scaling globally from Africa.

The Way Forward

PandemicTech’s has focused on leveraging our virtual incubator model and our growing innovation ecosystem to support innovative solutions to global health security challenges. We increasingly understand the breadth of this challenge; innovation in health security expands far beyond a traditional focus on vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics, and prevention. COVID-19 has emphasized the need for creativity within every part of a whole-of-society response, particularly for communications, public policy, and ensuring equitable access to resources for both individuals and communities worldwide.

On November 4th, we invite the entire PandemicTech team to participate in a virtual meeting about our most significant future efforts to promote innovation in the fight against pandemic infectious disease threats. We will also be organizing a virtual event to commemorate World Flu Day in late November 2020 and welcome interest from the PandemicTech team in helping organize this meeting. We’re excited to see you soon during these events, and please send us any updates you may have for future newsletters!

Acknowledgements

We would like to greatly thank our key sponsors — Bill Wood Ventures (Austin, Texas) and the Laura and John Arnold family (Houston, Texas) — for their ongoing support for PandemicTech. Thank you also to all of our team members and advisors for your support as we continue to build PandemicTech as a vehicle for innovation in the fight against pandemic infectious disease!

— Andrew Nerlinger and Lisa McDonald

PandemicTech (Austin, Texas, USA) is a virtual technology incubator confronting pandemic infectious disease threats