The Pediatric Pulse Oximeter

2015 – Bill and Melinda Gates and Safe Heart

It is estimated that pneumonia is responsible for 15% of childhood deaths worldwide. Recent research has shown that hypoxia and malnutrition are strong predictors of mortality in children hospitalized for pneumonia. It is estimated that 15% of children under 5 who are hospitalized for pneumonia have hypoxaemia and that around 1.5 million children with severe pneumonia require oxygen treatment each year. In 2015 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put a call out for a $20 pediatric pulse oximeter

Building a $20 Pediatric Pulse Oximeter With Only $50,000

With a $50,000 grant provided by the Atlantic Pediatric Device Consortium, Safe Heart built two prototypes of the medical grade $20 pulse oximeter for pediatric use. Adapting the core technology from the iOximeter, the team was able to rapidly produce the devices. They were fully functional devices that drew power directly from the mobile phone, with a non-disposable, rugged probe, perfectly meeting the goals set out by Bill and Melinda Gates.

Losing Through Winning

Turns out, even a device that fully conforms to the original goals of the Gates Foundation grant opportunity would not get traction with them due to Safe Heart’s outsider status. In the end, their $20M was awarded to Masimo who did not even produce an actual product. This catalyzed and strengthened the resolve of the Safe Heart team to help small medical device innovators get their products to the market quickly and affordably.

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