Protective suit for Ebola caregivers lands Johns Hopkins, Jhpiego among finalists in global design competition

A team representing Johns Hopkins and Jhpiego is among the finalists for an international award that recognizes innovative designs that improve lives for its improved protective suit for health workers treating patients with Ebola and other infectious diseases. Winners of the INDEX: Awards were announced Thursday night at a ceremony in Denmark.

The protective suit was initially designed by a team of global health experts, engineers, scientists, and students at a weekend-long hackathon in October 2014. The event—co-hosted by Jhpiego, a nonprofit global health affiliate of Johns Hopkins University, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design—came in response to a call to action from the White House and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for improved personal protective equipment during the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, which killed nearly 6,500 people, including more than 500 health workers. Clinvue, a Baltimore-based innovation consultancy, also contributed to the design.

The suit design has elements to keep the wearer more comfortable than in existing suits and reduce the risk of coming in contact with infectious fluids during treatment and while removing the suit. Enhancements include a large, clear visor in the hood, which is integrated into the suit; air vents in the hood; a rear zipper to reduce infection risks while removing the garment; and a cocoon-style doffing (removal) process that requires far fewer steps than existing garments. A more advanced version includes a small, battery-powered, dry air source to cool the user by blowing air into the hood.

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"To be considered for this prestigious award alongside so many remarkable institutions is truly a privilege," said Leslie Mancuso, president and CEO of Jhpiego. "As technical leaders in infection prevention and control and experts in building a skilled global health workforce, we are incredibly proud of the suit and its potential to save the lives of nurses, midwives, and other health professionals around the globe who are dedicated to delivering quality care, often under challenging circumstances."

Added Youseph Yazdi, executive director of CBID and a professor in the Johns Hopkins University Department of Biomedical Engineering: "It has truly been a privilege and labor of love for CBID's students, faculty, and staff to work with great partners like Jhpiego and Clinvue to design something that addresses such a great need. We are just eager to see this in the field helping the front-line heroes providing care."

The Ebola suit is one of five finalists in the Body category at the INDEX: Awards. A total of 46 finalists were selected in five categories from 1,123 nominations. Winners in each category receive $150,000.