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Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems. Each initiative is an experiment in the use of challenges to focus innovation on making an impact. Individual challenges address some of the same problems, but from differing perspectives.


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Challenges: Nutrition
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Creating Spirulina Microentrepreneurs to Solve Malnutrition

Sailendra Appanah, EnerGaia Bangladesh Ltd. (Dhaka, Bangladesh)
Nov 1, 2018

Sailendra Appanah of EnerGaia Bangladesh Ltd in Bangladesh will teach low-income women in rural Bangladesh to farm Spirulina, which is an edible protein- and nutrient-rich microalgae, to provide better nutrition and an income for them and their families. They have developed a low-cost Spirulina production system comprising closed tanks with filtered air and water inputs, and a business model that provides the farmers with a lease-to-own financing solution and guaranteed buyers of excess product. They will recruit 30 interested women from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and pay them a small wage to undergo three months of training at their local Spirulina farm. They will then provide them with tanks through the lease-to-own program, help them with installation and operation, and process the fresh spirulina produce for sale or for local consumption. They will evaluate the effect of their approach on income and malnutrition in the community.

Creating a Market Solution to Treat Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) in Rural Nigeria

Owens Wiwa, Clinton Health Access Initiative (Boston, Massachusetts, United States)
Nov 1, 2018

Owens Wiwa of the Clinton Health Access Initiative in the U.S. will determine whether providing free vouchers for mothers to receive a nutrient-dense food can help infants with moderate acute malnutrition in Nigeria. By linking the vouchers to attendance at immunization clinics, they also hope to boost immunization coverage. Malnutrition is a major public health concern in Nigeria, where almost one third of children are underweight, and ten percent are wasted. However, improving nutrition in poor and rural households is difficult because of a lack of education and limited access to nutritional foods. They will pilot test their approach in a randomized controlled trial at two locations by training healthcare workers at immunization centers to council mothers on feeding practices and to monitor infant growth to identify malnutrition. The mothers of malnourished infants between six and 23 months old will be provided with vouchers to receive three months’ worth of an existing fortified food, which will be provided at a local health facility. They will evaluate the effect of their approach on the infants’ nutritional status and immunization coverage.

Developing Spent-Grain Food Supplements in Ethiopia

Tsegaye Nega, Carleton College (Northfield, Minnesota, United States)
Nov 1, 2018

Tsegaye Nega of Carleton College in the U.S. will develop methods to produce and distribute affordable nutritional food supplements made from excess, dried spent grains from the brewery process. Beer production has grown recently in Ethiopia, and a by-product, brewer's spent grain, is rich in fiber and protein and can be easily added to bread to boost its nutritional content. They will perform a pilot study in Addis Ababa and Dukem, Ethiopia, where they will partner with a major brewing company to access the starting materials, and determine the standards needed for this human-grade food and the production and distribution setups required. They will also further develop nutritional product marketing and testing. Their approach is a low-cost, sustainable solution to combat malnutrition in Ethiopia.

Development of Low-Cost Clean-Tasting Protein Isolates Using Upcycled Agricultural By-Products

Amanda Stiles, Ripple Foods, PBC (Berkeley, California, United States)
Nov 1, 2018

Amanda Stiles of Ripple Foods, PBC, in the U.S. will produce a low-cost protein isolate upcycled from locally-sourced agricultural by-products that can be used as a nutritious food additive or standalone high-protein broth. Protein malnutrition is a major health concern in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. However, protein is expensive to produce and often has a bad taste. They have developed an automated approach to identify low-cost, efficient methods to isolate plant proteins from agricultural by-products in the U.S. They will apply their approach to by-products from low-resource settings, such as wheat bran, and perform a high-throughput protein isolation screen to identify optimal extraction and purification protocols for yield and purity. The final products will be taste-tested to ensure they have a limited impact on flavor when used as food additives.

Edible Micro-Balloons for Nutrition Enhancement

Muthupandian Ashokkumar, University of Melbourne (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
Nov 1, 2018

Muthupandian Ashokkumar at the University of Melbourne in Australia, along with Francesca Cavalieri, Meifang Zhou, and Srinvas Mettu, will produce edible microballoons made from protein that contain essential nutrients for adding to common foods to combat malnutrition in mothers and infants. Encapsulating the nutrients, rather than adding them directly to food, helps keep them stable and promotes their absorption in the body. It can also mask unpleasant tastes, and control the timing and location of nutrient release, which can increase their performance. They have developed a method that uses ultrasound waves to encapsulate oil- and water-soluble vitamins and minerals within edible shells made from a range of proteins including milk and pea proteins. They will analyze the stability and strength of microballoons made from different materials that contain the recommended daily doses of nutrients for mothers and infants. They will also develop methods to encapsulate water, which could be used to reduce the fat content of fat-rich products.

Folic Acid and Iron: Next Generation Nutrition in Uganda

Lorraine Weatherspoon, Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan, United States)
Nov 1, 2018

Lorraine Weatherspoon of Michigan State University in the U.S. will develop a blended instant bean sauce in an edible pouch that provides a culturally-acceptable iron and folic acid supplement for low-income pregnant women in Uganda. Iron and folic acid are particularly important during pregnancy as they reduce the risk of low birth weight and neural tube defects amongst many other morbidities and mortalities also for the mothers. Supplements provided as tablets are available, but have not been widely accepted. They are developing a more appealing iron and folic acid supplement by combining it with a commonly used product: a bean and silver fish sauce that can be made with local ingredients. They are using dried namulonge beans as they have high yields and a desirable taste, mixed with roasted, milled silver fish and micronutrients, packaged in an edible film to protect the food during storage and transport. The food is cooked in hot water and eaten with traditional foods such as cooking banana or rice. They will assess the nutritional composite of the product and acceptability by the target group. Their product will then be tested in a randomized controlled trial with teenage women at different stages of pregnancy at an antenatal clinic in Kampala to determine its effect on nutrition during pregnancy and the overall health of the mother and child at birth.

Food-Derived Nutraceutical Encapsulation System for Food Fortification

Joachim Loo, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore, Singapore)
Nov 1, 2018

Joachim Loo of Nanyang Technical University in Singapore will develop techniques to encapsulate micronutrients such as iron for food fortification using okara, which is a nutritionally-rich pulp that is made as a wasted by-product during the production of soybean products. Micronutrient malnutrition affects two billion people globally. Providing micronutrients in the diet is difficult because they are unstable by themselves, and so need some form of protection, for example by encapsulating them in a stable, digestible material. Okara is produced in large quantities during the production of soybean products like tofu and soya milk, leading to high environmental and economic costs for disposal. They will determine whether okara can be repurposed as an encapsulation material for micronutrients by developing and testing drying and sterilization methods and designing protocols to encapsulate vitamin A and iron. They will then evaluate the ability of the okara microcapsules to release bioactive micronutrients when exposed to artificial gastric and intestinal fluids.

High-Quality Fish-Powder for New Cambodian Ready-To-Use Food

Lyndon Paul, Vissot Co Ltd (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
Nov 1, 2018

Lyndon Paul of Vissot Co Ltd in Cambodia will reduce production costs for their nutritional wafer biscuits, which are made from a micronutrient-fortified fish powder, to help treat severe acute malnutrition in children and prevent malnutrition in young children and pregnant women in Cambodia. Acute and chronic malnutrition are a major public health concern in Cambodia. They previously developed a fortified fish powder and showed that it could replace milk in food for infants and was effective at reducing malnutrition. However, unstable supply and variable quality of the inland fish used to make the wafers have led to fluctuating prices. To address this, they will set up an optimized supply chain to reduce production costs by 60%. They will train workers in five communities where the fish are caught to sort, clean and pack the fish for transport to their factory in Phnom Penh. There, the fish will be processed into fish meal with acceptable taste and texture. They will evaluate the supply chain by collecting data from the fishers to the final product and evaluate quality and food safety.

Hybrid Value Chain for Vulnerable Populations

Gloraia Pena, Cooperativa Multiactiva De Madres Del Valle Coomac (Cali, Colombia)
Nov 1, 2018

Gloraia Pena of Cooperativa Multiactiva De Madres Del Valle Coomac in Colombia will implement a hybrid value chain business model to leverage collective purchasing power in a community of low-income families in Colombia to reduce the price of nutritious local foods. Current food prices are relatively high for low-income families because they buy in small volumes. They will combine collective purchasing power with a hybrid value chain model, which incorporates the needs and roles of the public and private sectors, to increase access to nutritional foods. They will collect social and economic data from an existing group of 9,000 families in a poor neighbourhood in Colombia to understand how their approach should be implemented. This will include the numbers of participants needed to reduce the cost sufficiently to encourage people to buy the healthier foods and ultimately produce a positive long-term impact.

Marketing an Iron-Fortified Food to India's Adolescent Girls

Mathew Edmundson, Violet Health (New York, New York, United States)
Nov 1, 2018

Matthew Edmundson of Violet Health in the U.S. will develop iron-rich biscuits and tailor marketing campaigns to combat iron deficiency in adolescent girls in India. Iron deficiency is a global health concern and is particularly dangerous during pregnancy when it can increase the risk of maternal death and health problems for the infant. Nearly half of all adolescent girls in India are iron-deficient, and although iron tablets are available they are not taken properly, partly due to their bad taste and a cultural aversion to tablets. Thus, more culturally acceptable alternatives are needed. To address this, they developed a low-cost, iron-rich biscuit that could overcome anemia and non-compliance to iron tablets in clinical tests with pregnant women in India. They will now focus on helping low-income adolescent girls by adapting the biscuits to their nutritional needs and preferences, which will be determined by interviewing 50 girls from different areas. These insights will also be used for a pilot marketing campaign to generate demand amongst the girls and their families and community members. They will test their approach with 300 girls from rural and urban locations in India to determine the effects of different marketing methods on demand.

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