The response to the Ebola outbreak and other emergency relief efforts have received another boost with a $1.5 million grant from The Paul G. Allen Ebola Program to Baylor College of Medicine for an enhanced, zero-impact, emergency smart pod. The Paul G. Allen Ebola Program is managed by Paul Allen’s company, Vulcan Inc.

Baylor Global Initiatives will use funding from the grant to design the layout for pharmacy, laboratory and triage pod prototypes that are rapidly deployable to areas where this type of emergency relief is needed.

Baylor Global Initiatives’ concept of an emergency smart pod was selected by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) earlier this year for President Barack Obama’s challenge to find innovative tools to help fight the Ebola crisis. The initial concept was for a portable, 8-bed treatment unit that could be rapidly deployed to areas affected by Ebola to assist healthcare providers.

This new grant allows expansion of this concept and use of smart technology to build on the initial Ebola treatment unit for confirmed Ebola patients and will help build out the ancillary services of an entire Ebola Treatment Facility. Pharmacies and labs were of great need during the Ebola outbreak, and Baylor Global Initiative’s efforts to prototype and standardize these facilities should help to improve immediate and effective care of patients with Ebola. This effort can be easily translated to any emergency response situation such as a natural disaster or infectious disease outbreak.

“We’re excited to further expand our pod’s capabilities and create a full-service emergency facility,” said Dr. Sharmila Anandasabapathy, director of Baylor Global Initiatives and the Baylor Global Innovation Center.

The team also will work on research and development of technologies for the pods, which include a water sanitization system, a drug and supply tracking system, a lab and innovative pharmaceutical technologies. The pharmacy’s layout will be reorganized so that the flow and functionality is appropriate for the specific emergency situation. The standardized triage process for each pod will allow an organized process for patient check-in and tracking through a wristband system where each patient is identified with a QR code.

“The West Africa Ebola outbreak exposed significant gaps in the world’s ability to effectively contain emerging infectious diseases. A rapidly deployable health facility was a clear gap in the early days of the Ebola response. While the world cannot stop every outbreak, we can apply innovative solutions to more effectively fill the gaps to ensure that the next outbreak doesn’t become the next epidemic,” said Barbara Bennett, president and COO of Vulcan Inc.

“We realized in the process of designing and building our USAID Ebola Treatment Unit that there were other capabilities and components that were essential to clinical care in remote regions, particularly during a crisis,” said Anandasabapathy. “The Allen funds will be highly complimentary to the USAID unit and, in fact, the two agencies are working together with us closely to advance this effort. You couldn’t really ask for a better team.”