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CBBC Insights: Healthcare | Sino-UK research partnership receives funding approval from Gates Foundation

BritCham / CBBC
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On 17 November, coinciding with World Prematurity Day, two members of the China-Britain Business Council – Anglia Ruskin University and Beijing Yes Medical Devices Co – received approval for over US$400,000 of funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Following a stringent appraisal process, their research proposal on ‘Using uterine electromyography to predict premature births’, produced in cooperation with Beijing University of Technology and the Peking Union Medical College Hospital of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, will receive seed funding under the Gates Foundation’s ‘Grand Challenges’ initiative for breakthrough science, with the opportunity for a further US$2.5 million in follow-up funding if initial research is successful.
As CBBC’s healthcare and life sciences director Anna Zhao explains, over the last decade the China-Britain Business Council has helped Beijing Yes Medical Devices Co and Beijing University of Technology to cooperate with British universities on technology transfer projects, including this successful match with Anglia Ruskin University. 
With the Gates Foundation reportedly receiving thousands of applications for seed funding, the success of Anglia Ruskin and Yes Medical Devices represents, if not a one in a million chance, at least one in several thousand.
Premature births forecast to increase in China
International research shows that premature birth is now the main cause of mortality in newborns, and the second cause of death in under-5s, after pneumonia. According to the World Health Organisation, around 15 million premature babies are born every year, and around 10 per cent of Chinese babies are born prematurely.
With the Chinese government’s ‘second-child policy’ having been extended to all couples and the country's birth rate set to scale new heights, experts forecast an increase in premature births over the next one to two years, exacerbated by a scramble among older mothers to have a second child before it is too late.
The Gates Foundation – the world’s largest – this year launched a special funding programme aimed at children’s healthy growth and all-round development, which gave rise to the research proposal involving Anglia Ruskin and Beijing Yes Medical Devices. The system, which uses fluctuations in EMG signals to assess movements during labour as well as the mother’s health, has good prospects for application in monitoring contractions and predicting premature childbirth.
Sino-UK partnership meets Gates Foundation criteria
The Gates Foundation aims to find innovative solutions around the world. Its assessment criteria for research projects include having the potential to produce highly impactful preventive techniques; innovation, including novel project methodology; high-tech solutions; unique project resources, including the capability of researchers and institutions; and finally, project value as measured against the complexity, risk level and potential impact of the project.
Anglia Ruskin University has collaborated for several years with Beijing Yes Medical Devices Co, Peking Union Medical College Hospital and Beijing University of Technology, which has given the coalition a strong research base and experience of the application of obstetrical and gynaecological equipment. The Gates Foundation considered their hypertension monitoring system to be an innovative and unique platform for collaboration and resource-pooling, with high potential for future industrialisation. 
Beijing Yes Medical Devices Co has over 20 years of specialist experience in obstetrical and gynaecological technology. In 1995, in collaboration with Beijing University of Technology and the Capital Medical University of the Beijing Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the company developed the world’s first system for monitoring hypertension in pregnancy, which was awarded the Beijing Prize for Progress in Science and Technology and was listed in the Chinese Journal of Perinatal Medicine in 2012 as ‘fundamental testing equipment for hypertension in pregnancy’.
CBBC continues to help members in healthcare sectors to identify partners and bring projects to fruition, based on over 60 years of experience helping UK businesses in the Chinese market. For more information contact the author, CBBC's Beijing-based director for healthcare and life sciences: anna.zhao@cbbc.org.cn
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