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The Trinity Challenge winners announced

Eight winners of the Trinity Challenge were announced in a live online ceremony hosted by Dame Sally Davies. They share a pledged prize fund of £5.7 million and will receive support from the Trinity Challenge founding members to develop their innovative solutions to help the world identify, respond to and recover from future global pandemics.

Dame Sally founded the Trinity Challenge in 2020, together with 42 leading business, academic and not-for-profit institutions, in recognition of the largely untapped power of data and analytics against global health emergencies. Dame Sally said:

It was crystal clear at the beginning of this pandemic that the world had a lack of data, a lack of access to data, and a lack of interoperability of data, presenting a challenge. While others talked, we took action. The solutions we have discovered in the course of the Challenge will be a link between systems and countries.

The Grand Prize of £1.3 million went to OpenDream, founded by Patipat Susumpow, which has equipped 20,000 Thai farmers with a mobile app to track disease among livestock in a bid to prevent infections jumping from animals to humans.

OpenDream’s Participatory One Health Disease Protection (PODD) will be deployed in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Uganda, Laos and Vietnam to turn farmers into ‘disease detectives’, creating a frontline surveillance system that will play a pivotal role in pandemic prevention.

Team leaders of the eight Trinity Challenge 2021 award winners

Seven other winners – two 2nd prizes and five 3rd prizes – were selected by the Trinity Challenge’s independent panel of 22 judges, in recognition of the high calibre of the 16 finalists, which were selected out of 340 teams from 61 countries who applied.

Dame Sally said:

We have been looking for solutions from anyone, anywhere around the globe that can use data and analytics in a new and different way to identify, respond to and recover from disease outbreaks, with the potential to become an epidemic or a pandemic to help those in the global south and north.

The response we have received has been overwhelming. It delivers on our members’ early vision, that a smarter, more cross-sectoral approach to data and analytics is key to building an effective, affordable and scalable response to the threat of infectious diseases.

The 2nd prize winners, awarded £1 million each, are The Sentinel Forecasting System for Infectious Disease Risk and Blood Counts!

Sentinel Forecasting Systems integrates data on viruses circulating in animals, land use and previous zoonotic diseases in West Africa to enable health authorities to forecast the risk of infectious diseases and tackle spillover of diseases such as Ebola and Lassa fever. This project is led by Professor Kate Jones of UCL with Professor Christian Happi, Director of the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in Nigeria, alongside other researchers in the UK and USA.

Blood Counts! led by Professor Carola-Bibiane Schonlieb, of the University of Cambridge, plans to turn the existing 3.6 billion blood tests performed each year into a broad surveillance network, which through machine learning algorithms can see indications of disease, including the presence of COVID-19 in the UK.

The 3rd prize winners, awarded £480,000 each, are:

MedShr Insights and Early Warning System, led by Dr Asif Qasim, will analyse data gathered from its platforms that connect 1.5 million doctors across 195 countries to identify disease outbreaks and alert governments, NGOs and academics institutions.

Khushi Health: Data Driven Responses to COVID-19, led by Ruchit Nagar in India and Living Goods: Supporting Digitally Enabled CHWs to Strengthen Health Systems, led by Sheila Mutheu Kioko in Kenya, will strengthen healthcare systems in India and East Africa respectively, with digital tools and improved data collection to support community health workers.

VaccineLedger: Ensure quality and safety of the vaccines, led by Sid Chakravarthy, uses block chain-based technology to track every single vial of vaccine along its journey from a manufacturer to a beneficiary in order to prevent waste.

Disease Surveillance with Multi-modal Sensor Network & Data Analytics, led by Professor Sheree Pagsuyoin of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, can detect pathogens in air and water using patented wireless technologies and will roll out a low-cost early warning network to track disease transmissions in four low-income communities.

The Trinity Challenge will provide mentoring and support for the eight prize winners and 16 finalists from among its members, which include the University of Cambridge, Imperial, LSE, HKUMed, Northeastern University, Tsinghua University, the University of Melbourne, the National University of Singapore; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative; Google, Facebook, Microsoft; Aviva, McKinsey & Company, Legal and General, GSK and Reckitt Benckiser.

 

OpenDream General Director, Patipat Susumpow, who developed PODD. Photo: The Trinity Challenge.

Read more about Participatory One Health Disease Protection (PODD)

PODD trains and equips farmers and volunteers to use a mobile app that collects huge amounts of data that is then transmitted to local health authorities and posted on Sicksense.org – available to anyone with an internet connection.

These farmer ‘disease detectives’ play a pivotal role in pandemic prevention by contributing to an early warning system of potential zoonotic disease that will enable rapid action by governments and health agencies.

Substantial proportions of populations in low and middle-income countries engage in farming, and with 75% of emerging diseases being zoonotic – meaning that they jump from animals to humans –the risk of another global pandemic remains high, as PODD Team Leader, Patipat Susumpow, explains:

As our cities grow, expanding farmland and deforestation encroach on wild animal habitats, increasing the likelihood of spillover. This is especially worrying since the majority of livestock owners practice backyard farming in close proximity to other animals and people. According to most infectious disease experts, it’s not a matter of if – but when the next pandemic will happen.

The problem isn’t only that we eat meat or have overcrowded farms; it’s the missing link between farmers and local government authorities who are capable of responding to an outbreak. Effective and ubiquitous early warning systems, like PODD, are the difference between a few sick chickens… and COVID-19.

PODD, which uses open-source software, says their initiative is a win-win for both local farmers in Thailand – 40% of whom live below the poverty line – and the wider global community. Patipat Susumpow said:

When you empower local communities with technology to solve problems themselves, they care more about the solution. Their lives truly depend on the health of their animals. PODD enables these families to detect small-scale animal outbreaks, and contain the spread before the national government shuts down the entire province (limiting trade) or orders their entire livestock to be culled, plunging them deeper into poverty.

While stopping “The Next Big One” has clear and tangible impacts for the world, preventing the frequent minor outbreaks matters as well. These smaller animal-only outbreaks matter not only because saving a local government $4 million and keeping farmers in business are positive, but focusing on challenges that directly impact farmers’ lives leads to better preparedness for a pandemic when it arrives. Engaging farmers beyond rare pandemic events results in more participatory data – and stronger early detection systems in the future.

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