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Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Oxford receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for ground-breaking research in global health and development

The Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME), part of the Department of Engineering Science, and Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (NDOG) at the University of Oxford recently announced that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The award will enable Ana Namburete from the Biomedical Image Analysis Laboratory at the IBME and Bryn Kemp (NDOG) to collaborate on an innovative global health and development research project, titled “A Machine Learning-Based Tool to Estimate Gestational Age”. Designed specifically for non-specialist healthcare workers within low-income settings, the product uses ultrasound images of the fetal brain to automatically estimate gestational age (GA).

Ana Namburete from the IBME will be developing a tool to automatically assess brain maturation and predict gestational age from a single 3D ultrasound scan
Ana Namburete from the IBME will be developing a tool to automatically assess brain maturation and predict gestational age from a single 3D ultrasound scan.
Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mould in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. The Oxford project is one of more than 50 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 14 grants announced by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

To receive funding, the Oxford team and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included development of the new ways to measure fetal and infant brain development. The Foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in September 2015.

Ana Namburete is a biomedical engineer from Mozambique who conducted her doctoral research in fetal ultrasound image analysis of the developing brain under the supervision of Professor Alison Noble at the IBME. Ana’s research interest is in creating medical solutions designed for the developing world; she has developed a machine-learning based tool capable of automatically estimating GA using a single 3D image of the fetal brain. 

Ana will lead the technical aspects of this exciting project, in collaboration with Bryn Kemp, an Obstetrician and Clinical Lecturer, who spent several years working in rural Kenya developing a perinatal research programme. Supervised by Professors Aris Papageorghiou and Stephen Kennedy, Bryn has first-hand experience of the unique challenges associated with perinatal care in low-income settings and will work with Ana to develop a tool that enhances perinatal care in settings where reliable estimates of GA are frequently unavailable.  

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, over 1100 projects in more than 60 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organisation. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

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