$2 egg-beater could save lives in developing countries

by Dave

Offering goods and services to bottom-of-pyramid markets requires a complete design rethink. Tata has done this with the Nano – the $2500 cost of a Nano is the same as the cost of a DVD player on a Lexus. Indian companies, mostly private-sector driven, working with size and scale efficiencies that their domestic market provides, are ideally placed to develop these types of low-cost goods and services with acceptable performance and quality targeting half the world’s population living on less than $2 a day.

There is an apocryphal story/rumor that NASA spent thousands of dollars developing a ‘space pen’ that could write while held upside down, in zero gravity,  while Russians used a pencil. Besided the inevitable smiles this story evokes the lesson to be learned is simple, cheap solutions in many cases trump complex, expensive ones. And people who are resource-constrained are more likely to come up with simple, cheap solutions.

The India-based Honey Bee network has a database of some of these grassroots, bottom-up inventions.


Plastic tubing taped to a handheld egg-beater could save lives in developing countries, the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Lab on a Chip reports.

The low-cost centrifuge replacement can separate plasma from blood in minutes, which is used in tests to detect lethal infectious diseases responsible for half of all deaths in developing countries.

George Whitesides and colleagues at Harvard University, US, say the plasma obtained is easily good enough to use in tests to detect diseases such as Hepatitis B and cysticercosis.

“The object was to separate serum [plasma] from blood using readily-obtained materials in a resource-constrained environment,” explains Whitesides.

The equipment can be bought from shops for around two dollars.
It needs no special training to use, no electricity or maintenance, and can be sterilised with boiling water and reused.

Contrast this with the bulky, sensitive commercial centrifuges, costing thousands of dollars and requiring extensive operation training, and it’s easy to see how this development could save lives.

Technorati Tags: