NLNG Science Prize: Bubble PoliteCPAP evolved for neonate ventilation

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Sopuruchi Onwuka

The winning work of the 2023 Nigerian Prize for Science would now substantially relieve parents and healthcare professionals in the country of the cost and complications of assisting newborn babies with immature lungs keep alive with infused oxygen.

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Besides, the winning entry by Professor Hippolite Amadi avails neonatal medical staff, obstetricians and sundry specialists an efficient tool to cut the mortality rate of neonates through administration of cost effective, efficiently shared and meticulously formulated air quality in a non-invasive manner.

With the acclaimed invention, Professor Amadi goes home not only with the $100,000 (N95 million) Prize staked by the Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) annually to incentivize innovation in the critical sectors of the Nigerian society. He stands the opportunity of technology patents and commercial partnerships with local industries on mass production of the device.

Professor Amadi is a visiting professor of Medical Engineering and Technology at Imperial College London with a special interest in the development of affordable medical systems. Prior to his work at Imperial College, he was a professor of Medical Technology at Imo State University. His career spans over three decades, cutting across engineering in healthcare, orthopaedics, and neonatology research. He is also the author of the book “Born to Live, Not to Die.”

The bubble polite non-invasive neonatal ventilator for continuous positive airway pressure (The bubble PoliteCPAP), The Oracle Today reports, presents three related technological innovations that work in related measures to save the lives of very low-birth-weight and sickly newborns, medically termed neonates, from low oxygen levels.

Professor of Medicine and Pulmonology at Ahmadu Bello University, Dr Abdullahi A. Abba, who explained the value of the work submitted by the Dr Amadi during the declaration of the results of the NLNG’s Nigerian Prize for Science 2023 in Lagos weekend, stated that underweight neonates normally arrive with immature lungs that are inefficient in absorbing adequate oxygen to keep alive. The situation, he explained, requires introduction of oxygen into the delicate under-developed respiratory channels using invasive devices that hold risks for fatal complications.

Until the introduction of the bubble Polite-CPAP by Dr Amadi, non-invasive devices for the procedure were imported from Australia and made available to patients at whopping N6.5 million per unit. The cost has proved very prohibitive for many parents and even hospitals in the country, leading to high rate of complicated cases among neonates most of whom were administered with invasive procedures that are also considerably costly, largely inefficient and limited in ineffectiveness.

But with the Polite-CPAP, unit cost has been crashed to only N750,000; pulling the price of the imported option down by about 50 percent from N6.5 million to less than N3.5 million after hospitals in the country started switching to the local option and achieving better clinical results.

Another member of the panel of judges, Dr. Olaitan Alice Soyannwo, further explained the criticality of the invention, pointing at the intricate nature of administering invasive devices in low birth weight neonates and the high risk of their survival.

“We are talking about babies that have the same weight as one kilo of meat you buy from the stores! From low birth weight to low internal temperature, the risks are very high. So, this device supplies the right proportion of oxygen and other components of our natural air at the right pressure into the lungs of the bay without causing any damage,” explained.

Dr Soyannwo who is a professor of Anaesthesia at the University of Ibadan also declared that the bubble PoliteCPAP would now become a major driver in the nation’s move to attain the global sustainable development goals on primary healthcare and in curbing infant mortality rate.

In announcing the Polite-CPAP as the winning work, the Advisory Board of The Nigeria Prize for Science described it as a novel scientific work on respiratory technologies.

Chairman of the board, Professor Barth Nnaji stated that the Panel of Judges for the 2023 Nigerian Prize for Science took full consideration of the innovative neonatal ventilator, saying that it provided three distinctive, easy and cheaper solutions to neonatal respiratory problems.

Professor Nnaji who is a former minister of Science and Technolgy explained that the bubble PoliteCPAP for continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) ventilation of very low-birth-weight neonates presents feasible alternative to the readily available improvised bubble CPAP (IBCPAP) in cost-constrained settings.

Second, he counted, is that the Oxygen Delivery Blender System which allows for the safe delivery of oxygen without the danger of toxicity.

He added that the bubble Polite-CPAP come with Oxygen Splitter System, which allows for the use of a shared source of oxygen to many neonates at a time and in situations where piped oxygen is not available.

To cap it all, “these devices are all solar powered,” stated the former Minister of Power, indicating that the production of the device took consideration of the rural sites of maternal healthcare centers in the country and their limited access to grid electricity supply.

He explained that the the Prize’s Advisory Board considered the judges’ verdict based on the 2023 theme of “Innovation for Enhancement of Healthcare Therapy.”

Professor Nnaji said the devices invented by Professor Amadi have been tried at various hospitals across Nigeria, with reports that bubble PoliteCPAP provides access to ventilators and oxygen delivery simultaneously to neonates at an extremely reduced cost and better efficiency.

He stated that the Professor Amadi’s work has significantly advanced neonatal care in Nigeria and other countries, improved access and lowered the cost of neonatal care by causing an observed reduction in the market prices of the competing and existing devices.

In delivering response of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited to the outcomes of the 2023 Nigerian Prize for Science, the General Manager in charge of External Relations and Sustainable Development, Mr. Andy Odeh, declared that the decision of the judges was a testament to the power of collaboration between the private sector, academia, and the broader scientific community.

He stated that the outcome emphasized the need for collective responsibility of stakeholders to nurture and support innovative solutions that hold the promise of transforming the country, adding that it aligns perfectly with NLNG’s vision of “helping to build a better Nigeria” where ground-breaking ideas flourish, and every life is valued and protected.

“We are honored and deeply moved by the judges’ decision to recognize the ground-breaking innovation in respiratory technology that has been awarded the Nigeria Prize for Science in 2023. This invention not only represents a remarkable leap forward in medical science but also serves as a beacon of hope for the most vulnerable among us – our neonates.

“It reminds us that true progress is measured not only in scientific achievement but in the lives it touches and saves. Today, we celebrate the impact that innovation can have in enhancing healthcare therapy and safeguarding the futures of countless newborns. At NLNG, we are proud to be part of a legacy that puts saving lives at the forefront of scientific pursuit,” he said.

In emphasizing the need for interdisciplinary collaboration in resolving key national challenges, the leader of the panel of judges for the 2023 Nigerian Prize for Science, Professor Joe Ahaneku, pointed out that Professor Amadi is actually an engineer who has taken interest in resolving an outstanding problem which has tormented the healthcare industry for ages.

The Oracle Today reports that with the successfully trialing of the bubble PoliteCPAP, policy advocates and commercial pundits are expected to escalate adoption of the device across regulatory structures to ensure its widespread application in saving neonates in the country, and also guarantee market returns that would reward inventors and commercial producers.

Across the years, the question of pushing inventions beyond discovery celebrations remains a very hard challenge for policy advocates to crack. And whereas the NLNG has sustained costly and convincing incentives for scientists to drive innovation and creativity in the country, policy drivers and regulators in the country are yet to tap into the huge repository of innovated works to develop home grown solutions.    

Former Minister of Industry, Chief Nike Akande, who sits on the Advisory Board of Nigerian Prize for Science, declared at the weekend in Lagos that the bubble PoliteCPAP presents a commercial opportunity for players in the manufacturing sector.

He pledged to mobilize members of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) to take the commercial advantage of partnering Professor Amadi in ensuring adequate production of the bubble PoliteCPAP in commercial quantity.

She declared that huge opportunity still exists for all manufacturers that wish to partner with the Nigerian Prize for Science in driving discoveries, inventions and innovations towards commercial production.

The call for Chief Akande amplifies the chorus of voices hankering for convergence of purposed among private interventionists like the NLNG and government agencies that hold huge purse for research, development and innovation.

With over 50 research and development agencies and institutes established for every sector of the country, including the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), Nigerian Academy of Science, National Centre for Energy Research and Development, National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT), Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC); analysts call for closer collaboration in translating the research outcomes to products and services that deliver solutions.

It is therefore the role of regulatory agencies and policy drivers to shop ideas, inventions and innovations that bring solutions and facilities to delivering the prime national aspirations for every sector of the social economy.

Although the terms of reference for government agencies might not originally cover outputs from private interventions, lateral collaborations hold potential for convergence of efforts that form the critical mass that generates momentum.

A registered Chartered Engineer of the UK Engineering Council, and a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining (UK), Dr Emmanuel Okoroafor, declared in an interview that “what we need is there, but it for us to do the right thing using the existing structures.”

According to him, we do things differently in Nigeria. “We like to create new units that are politicized and staffed with cronies, relations, old boys and so on to the extent that these institutions lose focus.”

He argues that “the industry in Nigeria and the education institutions should work hand in hand,” adding that “government and the industry work in collaboration to fund researches and programmes that innovate processes and introduce new solutions to industry operations.”

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