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NAE Regional Meeting and De Lange VIII: WikiCells, and Breathable Healthcare for the Developing World

February 28, 2012 by David Edwards

Joint De Lange Conference Session & National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Regional Meeting

Engineering for Impact: Effecting Sustainable Change in the Developing World

February 28, 2012

Session II: BioScience Research Collaborative

Speaker: David Edwards, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering, Harvard University

Abstract

Over the last five years, we have been exploring a new innovation model for sustainable change driven by art and design experimentation at frontiers of science. In this model, driven by organizations in Paris, France, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, sustainability derives from value contributed during the experimentation in educational, cultural, commercial and humanitarian contexts. Resources invested to generate these various kinds of value combine to propel idea development with local integration and inherent sustainable models. Three specific ideas will be described, one related to breathing nutrients into the mouth, and not into the lungs, and its relevance to developing world health and notably the problem of anemia. The other two projects derive from the notion that the biological cell can give us insight into how to design ways to better transport and consume water. The CellBag is a handbag/gourde with multiple benefits related to carrying large amounts of water. The CellBag emerged out of a Harvard classroom, and is now being used in a rural community in South Africa and sold in Paris. Sale of the product in the developed world sustains use in the developing world and is the basis of plans for a South African company to further develop and commercialize the CellBag. WikiCells are another technology that spun out of the early Harvard project. WikiCells are a technology for creating "edible bottles," essentially biological forms for packaging drinks and food. WikiCells can be produced locally and inexpensively and decrease the use of oil-derived plastics.

This session is the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Regional Meeting, presented in conjunction with the De Lange Conference VIII, and hosted by Rice University's George R. Brown School of Engineering and Rice 360: Institute of Global Health Technologies.

The De Lange Conference VIII promises to be a forward-looking forum for university leaders, visionaries, and researchers to contemplate the rapidly evolving ecosystem of research universities in response to powerful global forces and disruptive technologies. What forms will the global research universities of the future take? How will the new, global research enterprises at the heart of the university be organized and funded? Which strategies will enhance the competitiveness of research universities seeking to attract outstanding students, faculty, and resources in an increasingly global higher education marketplace? What will the impact of these changes be on our educational mission and values? At this conference, we will hear from leaders who contemplate both changes in the near-term and the longer-term processes that will likely result in profound transformations in the decades to come.

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