Global Health Innovation Insight Series

Being an innovator is never easy. But tackling the needs of underserved patients and of health care providers in developing countries can be especially difficult. The idiosyncrasies of the health care sector, the contextual barriers found in resource-constrained environments, and the already-difficult-to-implement innovation process make entrepreneurship in global health time-consuming, expensive, and risky.

Complicating matters further, there’s a scarcity of useful resources specific to the complex field of global health. Most of the available information is in the form of human-interest stories that focus on the good intentions or ingenuity of the innovators, with little data provided about the mechanics of how ideas are implemented and almost no mention of failure. 

To help address this gap in knowledge, researchers at Stanford spent approximately 18 months talking to students, faculty members, practitioners, funders, and others about their approach to global health innovation and, in particular, the challenges they have faced. This research was led by Stanford GSB as part of the Stanford Global Health Consortium: Innovation, Design, Evaluation, and Action (CIDEA). The project was funded by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01. We then captured those stories in a collection of mini-case studies that we call the Global Health Innovation Insight Series.

These cases, organized into six interrelated categories, are presented below in the hope that the lessons and discoveries documented in each one will help other global health innovators successfully design and commercialize products and services to improve the health of the world’s poor.

Identifying and Validating Needs

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

When a team at Stanford University accepted a challenge to design a low-cost prosthetic knee joint that could be produced locally for use in the…

Understanding Market/Stakeholder Dynamics

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Julie Manriquez
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

To help address the issue of unplanned pregnancy and maternal mortality in the developing world, researchers at the University of Georgetown’s…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

Life Force Kiosks is a nonprofit that aims to reduce preventable waterborne diseases like typhoid, cholera, and diarrhea to save lives in the most…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Edward Sheen
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

Trevor Field, a retired British businessman and outdoor advertising executive, was deeply moved when he observed women and girls in rural villages of…

Getting to a Market-Ready Product or Service

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Julie Manriquez
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

When team members at D-Rev — a U.S. nonprofit technology company with the mission to improve the health and incomes of people living on less than $4…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Stacey McCutcheon
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

The Rice 360° Institute for Global Health Technologies seeks to design and implement technologies that improve health and reduce poverty. Beyond…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Stacey McCutcheon
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

When 3rd Stone Design, a product design, strategy, and development consultancy, licensed the DoseRight Syringe Clip out of the Rice University Beyond…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Stacey McCutcheon , Amy Lockwood
Global Health Innovation Insights
2013

Globally, pneumonia kills more children than any other illness. In developed countries, pneumonia and other acute respiratory conditions are treated…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Edward Sheen
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

KickStart was founded by Martin Fisher and Nick Moon to design tools that would enable Africa’s poor to launch and sustain profitable businesses. Its…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Stacey McCutcheon
Global Health Innovation Insights
2013

To help address the burden of childhood asthma in developing countries, Respira Design created an asthma spacer that was produced from a single sheet…

Sales, Marketing, and Distribution

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Amy Lockwood , Julie Manriquez
Global Health Innovation Insights
2013

To help address the issue of unplanned pregnancy and maternal mortality in the developing world, researchers at the University of Georgetown’s…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Amy Lockwood , Edward Sheen
Global Health Innovation Insights
2013

d.light design is a for-profit social enterprise whose purpose is to create new freedoms for customers without access to reliable power so they can…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

Life Force Kiosks is a nonprofit that aims to reduce preventable waterborne diseases like typhoid, cholera, and diarrhea to save lives in the most…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Edward Sheen
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

KickStart was founded by Martin Fisher and Nick Moon to design tools that would enable Africa’s poor to launch and sustain profitable businesses. Its…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

Maternova was founded in 2009 as a mission-driven for-profit organization with two main objectives: (1) to provide an online knowledge platform that…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

In late 2006, the PATH Safe Water Project received a $17 million grant from the global development unit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

In late 2006, the PATH Safe Water Project received a $17 million grant from the global development unit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Julie Manriquez , Christine Kurihara , Anurag Mairal
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

Phoenix Medical Systems was founded to manufacture an incubator designed specifically to address the needs of low-resource healthcare providers in…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Julie Manriquez , Christine Kurihara , Anurag Mairal
Global Health Innovation Insights
2013

Phoenix Medical Systems was founded to manufacture an incubator designed specifically to address the needs of low-resource healthcare providers in…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Stacey McCutcheon
Global Health Innovation Insights
2013

Population Services International (PSI) was founded in 1970 as a nonprofit organization focused on improving reproductive health in developing…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend
Global Health Innovation Insights
2011

After reading a newspaper article that predicted the spread of HIV through medical syringes, Marc Koska committed himself to addressing the threat of…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend
Global Health Innovation Insights
2011

After reading a newspaper article that predicted the spread of HIV through medical syringes, Marc Koska committed himself to addressing the threat of…

Defining a Viable Business Model

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Stacey McCutcheon
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

Anacor Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a for-profit biotech firm founded in 2002, which focuses on discovering, developing, and commercializing novel small…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Julie Manriquez
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

When team members at D-Rev — a U.S. nonprofit technology company with the mission to improve the health and incomes of people living on less than $4…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Julie Manriquez
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

To help address the issue of unplanned pregnancy and maternal mortality in the developing world, researchers at the University of Georgetown’s…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Amy Lockwood , Stacey McCutcheon
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

While attending Stanford, the Embrace team developed an idea for an innovative infant warmer to help low-birth-weight infants. The early prototype…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Stacey McCutcheon
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

The Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) was founded by immunologist Steve Reed in 1993 as a nonprofit global health research center dedicated…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

When a team at Stanford University accepted a challenge to design a low-cost prosthetic knee joint that could be produced locally for use in the…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Edward Sheen
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

Having observed too many development projects that appeared successful at first, but then failed as soon as the development agency moved on, Martin…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend
Global Health Innovation Insights
2013

In late 2006, the PATH Safe Water Project received a $17 million grant from the global development unit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Stacey McCutcheon
Global Health Innovation Insights
2013

Population Services International (PSI) was founded in 1970 as a nonprofit organization focused on improving reproductive health in developing…

Securing Adequate Funding

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Edward Sheen
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

d.light design is a for-profit social enterprise whose purpose is to create new freedoms for customers without access to reliable power so they can…

Stefanos Zenios , Lauren Denend , Edward Sheen
Global Health Innovation Insights
2012

KickStart was founded by Martin Fisher and Nick Moon to design tools that would enable Africa’s poor to launch and sustain profitable businesses. Its…

Stefanos Zenios , Lyn Denend , Amy Lockwood , Stacey McCutcheon
Global Health Innovation Insights
2013

The Mulago Foundation is a private foundation focused on the prospect of creating a better life for the world’s poor. Concentrated in rural settings…