Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Maria Oden, two Rice University bioengineering professors, have been named as recipients of the 2013 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation. This award consists of a $100,000 award for each of the instructors for their work mentoring a new generation of inventors that have created health technologies that are saving lives in developing countries and areas of the world with poor economies.
The two Rice University instructors created Beyond Traditional Borders (BTB) in 2006 with funding from HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute). The program developed by the two women has shown great success in a short time. Since the 2006, BTB has guided more than 3,000 student inventors and has ultimately been able to help 45,000 people across 24 different countries with its 58 health inventions and innovations. The program hasn’t just made an impact on those with medical needs in poorer countries, however. The participating students are often equally impacted by their work in Beyond Traditional Borders.
In an HHMI news article, former BTB student Jocelyn Brown was quoted as saying:
“I learned about health issues faced by the poorest areas of the world and used my engineering skills to help solve some of those problems. I have been able to improve the standard of care for infants halfway around the globe. The experience has inspired me to continue inventing and innovating for the developing world.”
Not only does the success and impact of BTB make Richards-Kortum and Oden a logical choice for the award, but the women also intend to donate their award back into biotechnology in the developing world, showing their devotion to the cause. Honorees of the Lemelson-MIT Award are chosen based on their improvement of the lives of those in developing countries through technological innovations. Both professors intend to donate their award to the Day One Project – a project to achieve renovation of the neonatal ward at their partner hospital in Malawi. The professors will officially be given their award at the 7th Annual EurekaFest, which will be held at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in June.