Supporting innovation to save newborn babies

Author

Author

Date

November 30, 2016

Author: Trang Chu Minh

8 million babies are born prematurely in India. A Bangalore-based social enterprise invented a life-saving bracelet to protect them.

Bempu Health partnered with Microsoft’s in-house counsel and intellectual property law firm Ashu Thakur & Associates to launch an innovative temperature monitoring bracelet designed to help combat child mortality in India. Free legal assistance facilitated by , the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s pro bono legal programme, allowed for the early commercialisation of the device and its distribution to over hundreds of healthcare centres across the country.

According to figures by the World Health Organization, newborn deaths account for 41 percent of all child deaths before the age of five. In India, one third of babies are born at a clinically low birth weight and are consequently exposed to high risks of neonatal hypothermia and infection – conditions that are among the top causes of infant illness and death in resource-poor countries. Regular temperature monitoring is a simple and effective method to prevent these deaths, however access to temperature monitoring devices is scarce, as is skilled care to improve parents’ awareness of preventative healthcare measures.

bempu-baby-1
To address these deficiencies in infant healthcare, Bempu Health, a Bangalore-based social enterprise, developed an intuitive, low-cost temperature monitoring bracelet for newborns, which detects the slightest temperature drop and alerts care-givers in the event of cold stress.

In May 2015, the social enterprise approached TrustLaw to seek assistance with their intellectual property registration prior to the public disclosure of the invention.  Given the novelty of the medical device and India’s complex regulatory frameworks, Bempu Health required urgent legal advice on the conduct of clinical trials and the protection of their invention.

Connection to pro bono assistance facilitated by TrustLaw was swift and the lawyers at Microsoft and Ashu Thakur completed the project in less than three months, which enabled Bempu Health to bring the product to market in advance of the original launch date. The legal advice was also instrumental in helping the social enterprise win a crucial USAID Saving Lives at Birth grant.

“As of May 2016, we have distributed the hypothermia alert device among more than 100 public and private health centres across India and helped protect around 1,500 babies in 11 states. This is a remarkable first step towards achieving our organisation’s five-year goal of preventing 10,000 deaths and 1 million instances of hypothermia,” says Ratul Narain, Founder of Bempu Health.

The project exemplifies the value of collaboration between social enterprises, law firms and corporate legal teams, and shows how the right legal support can help social ventures balance profit and purpose more effectively.

“Recently, we had a mother in Karnataka whose first baby had died from an infection detected too late. Her second baby was given the temperature monitoring bracelet upon discharge from the hospital, which allowed for the early detection of a gastro-intestinal infection and timely hospital treatment”, adds Narain. “For mothers in low-resources settings who are not aware of hypothermia and don’t have the hospital care available to them, we feel we are saving lives,” adds Narain.

The project has won the 2016 TrustLaw Innovation Award.

A worker's son plays in a salt pan near Bhavnagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat March 5, 2009. REUTERS/Arko Datta (INDIA) - RTXCEC4

Trustlaw is the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono legal programme. We connect the world’s leading legal teams with high-impact NGOs and social enterprises working to create social change. Our free legal service enables NGOs and social enterprises to streamline operations, expand into new countries and scale their impact. Our research programmes are powerful advocacy tools that help our members achieve legal and policy reforms and improve the rule of law. Find out more.


trang-chu-minhBased out of London, Trang has a global responsibility developing and executing communications strategy and campaigns targeted at TrustLaw’s network of legal experts, NGOs and social enterprises across 175 countries. Prior to the Foundation, Trang has held various positions in communications, marketing and research across both the private and public sectors, including Thomson Reuters in Singapore, the UN Industrial Development Organisation in Austria, the International Organisation for Migration and ActionAid International in Vietnam, the Department of Justice Victoria in Australia as well as the International Trade Development Agency in Hungary. Trang holds a Masters in International Relations, completed with the University of Nottingham and the University of Melbourne as well as a Masters in Communication Management, undertaken as part of a tripartite programme by the Singapore Management University, UCLA and the Università della Svizzera Italiana. Trang received an Outstanding Performers Award for her services with Thomson Reuters and was recognised for her academic achievements with the DBS Bank Top Student Award upon her graduation from the Masters in Communication Management degree. In her free time, Trang also contributes to various international development projects as a UN Volunteer.