Innovators hailed as trailblazers in their fight to prevent, respond to, and recover from pandemics
Cambridge, UK, June 29 — The Trinity Challenge shared out £5.7 million (US $8 million) from their pledged prize fund to one Grand Prize Winner, two second prize winners, and five third prize winners at their Awards Ceremony on June 25, 2021.
The Ceremony was live streamed to over 350 attendees.
The event was hosted by Dame Sally Davies who founded The Trinity Challenge. Dame Sally Davies is the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge and the UK’s Special Envoy on AMR. She was the former Chief Medical Officer for England and the most senior medical advisor to the government of the United Kingdom.
In celebrating the achievements of the winners and finalists, Dame Sally Davies spoke about the need to learn from the current pandemic in order to do better next time. The use of data and analytics lies at the heart of solutions to help handle better, and even prevent the next pandemic, while improving global public health. The lack of access to data, and the lack of interoperability, were issues that The Trinity Challenge was determined to address, alongside bringing the latest data analytics to bear on pandemics.
“We knew that there was data and data sets that were not held by health systems or governments, and we knew there were talented and innovative people out there, working tirelessly to improve health conditions in their communities. They were using data and analytics in really creative ways—but what if their ideas could be brought to scale to benefit the wider world?”
Recognising that the limited funding and paucity of expert mentors were constraints, Dame Sally Davies said, “We designed the Challenge to solve these—a sort of Dragons Den or Shark Tank for data science and public health—and as word spread, the response was extraordinary. And from this great pool of talent, the winners of our inaugural Challenge are being recognised as trailblazers.”
Twenty-two Judges had the hard task of selecting 16 finalists and 15 ‘Highly Commended’ teams from 340 applications. Of these 16 finalists, The Trinity Challenge awarded prizes to eight teams.
Tsitsi Masiyiwa, Founder and Co-Chair of Higherlife Foundation, and Co-Chair of the judging panel said, “It was an exceptional opportunity to be exposed to this cohort of scientists and global health experts who are embedded in communities. I was very impressed by all applicants, particularly the 16 finalists, and it was really difficult to pick out the winners. These are people who are dedicated—their proposals and the manner in which they responded to the questions from the judging panel highlighted their authenticity and passion.”
At the ceremony, the Grand Prize was awarded to the Participatory One Health Disease Detection (PODD) team, led by Patipat Susumpow, CEO of Opendream, and Professor Lertrak Srikitjakarn of Chiang Mai University. The PODD team has been awarded £1.3 million of pledged prize funding. Their unique solution turns farmers into disease detectives to serve as a front-line surveillance system, to prevent disease spill-over from animals.
Mr Susumpow expressed his thanks to The Trinity Challenge, and to the team at Chiang Mai University and Opendream. Discussing their strategy going forward, he said, “We want to bring PODD to the world by creating a toolkit and making it available to everyone. Having support from The Trinity Challenge will tremendously enable every community to implement the vision of PODD and prevent further outbreaks at source.”
Talking about the networking and collaboration opportunities that may arise from the Awards ceremony and ongoing interaction with The Trinity Challenge, Steve Davis, Trustee of The Trinity Challenge, and Co-Chair of WHO Digital Health Technology Advisory Group, said, “This is such a great group, and they’re progressing in such a fast-paced environment. We want to do everything we can to ensure that they are successful. In the months ahead, these winners will have the opportunity to build relationships with members of The Trinity Challenge, and our broader network. We will continue to support our winners as well as the finalists, in making the necessary connections to succeed. We’ve all seen the power of collaboration that results from bringing for-profit, non-profit and social and academic partners together. And we will also continue to encourage and support innovation in data and technology to enable pandemic preparedness.”
When asked how The Trinity Challenge members and the audience at the Awards could help support PODD, Mr Susumpow said,: “Disease surveillance needs two approaches—one from the top down and one from the bottom up. PODD focuses on the bottom-up approach, by enabling anyone to be part of disease surveillance. We want to connect with partners who want to implement PODD in their country. If anyone in the audience believes in the power of citizens and participation, and is willing to have a local PODD implemented, we would love to work with them.”
Two solutions in the second prize category each won an award of £1 million (US $1.4 million) in pledged prize funding:
The Sentinel Forecasting System for Infectious Disease Risk led by Dr Kate Jones, of University College London.
Blood Counts! led by Dr Carola Bibiane Schönlieb, of the University of Cambridge.
Five 3rd prize winners were each awarded £480,000 (US $660,000) in pledged funding.
MedShr Insights and Early Warning System team, led by Dr Asif Qasim, currently operating in countries such as Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Lesotho.
Khushi Health, led by Ruchit Nagar, currently operating in India.
Living Goods, led by Sheila Mutheu Kioko, currently operating in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda.
VaccineLedger, led by Sid Chakravarthy, currently operating in India.
Disease Surveillance with Multi-modal Sensor Network & Data Analytics, led by Sheree Pagsuyoin, operating in the USA and The Philippines.
Watch the reactions of the winners on YouTube.
Mark Dybul, Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University & Co-chair of the Judging Panel, said, “The Trinity Challenge is unique; it’s all about innovation and doing things differently, using new technologies and trying to get the best ideas at the community level from around the world, not just going to the usual players. And The Trinity Challenge has delivered. What we’ve seen in these finalists and winners, shows what is possible, what is out there. We need more things like The Trinity Challenge to bring these kinds of ideas forward and to take risks. I thought this was an extraordinary opportunity, and it has paid off.”
The Awards Ceremony was immediately followed by breakout sessions, allowing members of the audience to interact with the winners. They also served as a hub for forging further collaborations between the winners and attendees from the private, academic, and non-profit sectors who were keen to establish networking opportunities.
The sessions were chaired by members and founding members of The Trinity Challenge, who acted as Facilitators. These included: Dr. Susan Thomas and Dr. Martin Seneviratne from Google Health, Tamer Farag from Facebook Health, Lars Hartenstein from McKinsey, Alex Demarsh from BlueDot, Greg Quinn and Diane Flayhart from BD, William Heisel from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Bob Battista from Dr. Evidence, Iain Barton from Clinton Health Access Initiative, and Christoph Benn from the Joep Lange Institute.
There was a special note of appreciation for The Trinity Challenge’s 42 members as well as partners, including MIT Solve, who helped deliver the Challenge through their platform.
The Trinity Challenge is committed to developing further Challenges, subject to ongoing funding, to encourage creativity and a further exploration of how the health of the world can be improved by collaboration, and the innovative use of data and analytics.