"Cervical Cancer Revolution" Proposal Among "Top 100" for MacArthur $100 Million Grant

Duke biomedical engineer Nimmi Ramanujam's plan aims to close the cervical cancer inequity gap and catalyze a new model of women-centered health care

Published March 06, 2020 under Research News

Nimmi Ramanujam

Dr. Nimmi Ramanujam is the Robert W. Carr Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and also a faculty member in the Duke Global Health Institute and Department of Pharmacology and Cell Biology at Duke University. Dr. Ramanujam is an innovator, educator and entrepreneur and her mission is to develop and leverage technologies that have a wide-reaching impact in women’s health.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recently announced that Duke professor Nimmi Ramanujam’s “Women-Inspired Strategies for Health (WISH): A Revolution Against Cervical Cancer” was one of the highest-scoring proposals in its "100&Change" competition. The proposal was designated among the “Top 100” and will enter the next round of competition this spring for a single $100 million grant to help solve one of the world’s most critical social challenges.

More than one billion women worldwide struggle to access sexual and reproductive health care due to physical, financial, cultural and technical barriers. These barriers have led to disparities in cervical cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment and if they’re not lifted, by 2030, the mortality rate from cervical cancer in developing countries is projected to be ten-fold higher than the mortality rate in developed countries. At this pace, there will be more than 20 million new cervical cancer cases by 2060.

The “Women-Inspired Strategies for Health (WISH)” proposal aims to change this trajectory by empowering women with the knowledge, tools and support that can close the cervical cancer inequity gap and catalyze a new model of women-centered health care.

This project is a team endeavor and reflects the power of community to make the impossible, possible.

Dr. Nimmi Ramanujam — Director of the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies, and DGHI faculty member

Led by Dr. Ramanujam, director of the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies at Duke University, the program is based on years of research, development and field-testing of portable, user-friendly cervical cancer screening and diagnostics technologies in low-resource settings. Using an approach that shifts prevention and screening from hospitals to communities — even within women’s homes — the team expects to dramatically increase screening and treatment rates.

“We are extremely thrilled and grateful to be recognized as one of the ‘Top 100’ proposals in the 100&Change competition, and excited to make WISH a reality for women facing critical health care gaps,” said Ramanujam, the Robert W. Carr Professor of Biomedical Engineering and a faculty member at DGHI.

Ramanujam added, “This project is a team endeavor and reflects the power of community to make the impossible, possible. I would like to thank each and every member of my team for their incredible dedication that brought us to this point. Our hope is that WISH’s women-centered approach will spark a multiplier effect where women empower women to end deaths from cervical cancer.”

The “Top 100” proposals were rigorously vetted, undergoing MacArthur’s initial administrative review, then a peer review, then an evaluation by an external panel of judges and finally, a technical review by specialists whose expertise matched the project. Each proposal was evaluated for four criteria: impactful, evidence-based, feasible and durable. MacArthur’s board of directors will select up to 10 finalists from these high-scoring proposals this spring.

“MacArthur seeks to generate increased recognition, exposure and support for the high-impact ideas designated as the ‘Top 100’,” said Cecilia Conrad in a press statement. Conrad is CEO of Lever for Change and MacArthur Managing Director, 100&Change.

“Based on our experience in the first round of 100&Change, we know the competition will produce multiple compelling and fundable ideas. We are committed to matching philanthropists with powerful solutions and problem solvers to accelerate social change,” Conrad said.

Proposal finalists will also be showcased on the Bold Solutions Network, which is designed to help top applicants gain visibility and funding from a wide array of funders. The Bold Solutions Network will provide a menu of technical support and learning opportunities, including a variety of webinars, pro bono services, coaching, workshops, cohort support and peer networking opportunities in various regions around the world.

"100&Change" is a distinctive competition that is open to organizations and collaborations working in any field, anywhere in the world. Proposals must identify a problem and offer a solution that promises significant and durable change. To learn more about the competition, visit MacArthur Foundation's "Perspectives on 100&Change blog."

The original version of this story was published on the Pratt School of Engineering website.