By Mark Dwortzan
Associate Professor Muhammad Zaman (BME, MSE) has won one of 16 grants issued by the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) Health program to field test his counterfeit drug detection system in Indonesia. The PharmaCheck system will be employed to screen drugs used to save mothers dying from postpartum bleeding.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Academies and USAID, the grant supports joint projects between NIH researchers in the U.S. and researchers in the developing world that address critical public health needs. The only engineer to receive this award, Zaman plans to work with Iwan Ariawan of the University of Indonesia to test the system.
“The challenges of substandard and counterfeit drugs are global and we are delighted that USAID and NIH found our approach to address this problem in Indonesia—which has a particularly high burden of substandard drugs—innovative and worthy of support,” said Zaman. “We anticipate that our technology will allow for better screening and substantially improve public health outcomes in Indonesia, while providing us with necessary field data to scale the technology in the country and in other parts of the world.”
The award—worth up to $450,000 over three years—follows a $250,000 innovation seed grant Zaman won in 2012 from the Saving Lives at Birth program, which seeks to stimulate innovative preventative and treatment methods to improve health outcomes for mothers and newborns around the time of delivery.
The main objective of the PharmaCheck project is to develop a user-friendly, low-cost, high-throughput, accurate device that local health authorities can use to screen for substandard anti-malarials and antibiotics, thereby improving adverse maternal and neonatal health outcomes with respect to malaria and sepsis. The need for such a device is particularly acute in the developing world, where the prevalence of these diseases is high and counterfeit and substandard drugs are commonplace.
“Counterfeit, substandard and inactive drugs are among one of the biggest challenges in global health, and our inability to detect these drugs in the field seriously hampers our ability to provide effective care to the most vulnerable mothers and babies,” said Zaman. “PharmaCheck will provide a comprehensive, affordable and context-specific solution that will help save countless lives in resource-limited settings.”