Nigerian scientist wins NLNG prize for developing tech to improve survival of newborns
A Nigerian scientist and professor of Medical Engineering, Prof. Hippolite Amadi, has developed a technology that improves the survival of newborn babies, especially by enabling them to breathe well under harsh climatic conditions
The device, which took Amadi 27 years to perfect has also won the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) 2023 Prize for Science, is to address a very crucial problem of abnormally high death rate of newborn babies in Nigeria.
The product that won the award is the Polite Heart Sea Park and the other technologies that are associated with it, that is the Polite Oxygen Blend and the Polite Oxygen Splita System are to ensure a drastic cut in infant mortality rate in the country.
The Nigeria-born Professor of Imperial College, London stated that the high rate of infant mortality, which is crippling Nigeria, and has brought about a global shame for the country, is a problem that only Nigerians can solve. “If you like, be a friend of the biggest countries in this world, you will remain there forever until you decide to solve it yourself”.
Nigeria will definitely need more patriotic men like Prof. Amadi, whose passion to see a drastic reduction in the number of infant deaths in the country, pushed him into the quest to find the root causes of these deaths and how they can be solved.
Prof. Amadi also wanted to stop the suffering of women by ensuring that every baby born has a chance to live. He said this could also go a long way in managing population growth in the country.
He told journalists that this drive was birthed 27 years ago when he walked into a unit at a hospital in Calabar as a very young researcher to the reality that several newborns at the hospital may not make it through the night for lack of warmth.
According to him, the doctors at the hospital had given him the impression that “If we could keep these babies warm, they would survive.”
“So, I said, okay. I was going to look for what to do, I was still a very young researcher, you know, to see how I could solve that problem. I began the process. When it looked like I had solved the problem, I now discovered that the problem was yet to be finished. All right. From there, I now had to start studying the other contributing factors.
“So, the first of it that I started tackling was thermal support, the new neonatal thermal support, we call it thermal neutral support, because that was what was presented to me 27 years ago to be the problem that was making babies to die.
“Each one of them that became clear to me, I had to first of all study the science. Some of them would need studying the technology, I have to study the technology, next, I will now go into providing any antidote and all that. So there have been quite a lot.
“Thermal neutral support is one of them. I’ve had to deal with issues of jaundice, I’ve had to deal with issues of, for example, climate, how climate was affecting the babies, which is another very open one that took years to solve.
“So, when people are talking about climate, climate is affecting life, big time and is affecting the life of newborn babies, big time. People don’t know, people don’t talk about it. But when I discovered that climate was impacting the babies, I started another major study, which showed that global health really had to come through being into it in order to benefit from it. So, it’s big, it’s a good idea.
“I had to create mitigating intervention techniques for keeping the Nigerian babies safe under the weight of the climate. So that’s one aspect of it.
“There is also an aspect that will affect the functionality of the building. People do not even pay attention to that, but building is one of the most neonatal equipment. But people think that keeping babies in a room is like you build some structures and you call it a hospital, then you wake up one morning and you tell the new neonatologist, ‘you see that room there, just take the babies there.’ That is not neonatology, It’s far bigger than that. I’ve created a lot of science around building as an equipment.”
He thanked the NLNG for the big gong that it provided for Nigerians to discuss the big Nigerian problem and to find a way forward to solving it.
“It’s not about me, it’s not even about NLNG. It has brought along the way, and because I’m not just, I’m not just representing myself or maybe celebrating myself, I’m actually representing the babies.”
He said that what Nigerians and the NLNG are now celebrating; the Polite Heart Sea Park; is the result of that quest which began 27 years ago; a technology which can now help Nigerian new born baby’s breath as well as regulate the amount of oxygen that it requires to survive.
Prof. Amadi also revealed that the product being celebrated is one out of seven, and apparently the latest of all, because the research into respiratory support devices was conceptualized in 2015, began in 2017 and introduced in 2018.
“From 2018, quite a number of hospitals across the country have used the Polite Heart Sea Park and the other technologies that are associated with it, that is the Polite Oxygen Blend and the Polite Oxygen Splita System.
“These are the three technologies that NLNG saw and they said this is worth celebrating. But when they went to investigate it, they discovered that it’s just one out of all the other things that have been going on in the last 27 years.”
With this invention now supplied to the hospital at the rate of N750,000 as against N6.5 million, the professor disclosed that he has no plans of making profits and called on all potential investors, including the government to have the same problem-solving mindset.
He explained that similar products from foreign countries may not be able to compete because his was produced with locally sourced materials.
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