‘Lab Pod’ to serve as adaptable resource during global health crises

In the wake of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the Smart Pod was developed by Baylor Global Health to serve as a deployable field hospital and provide an immediate response to wide-scale health crises.

Under the leadership of Dr. Sharmila Anandasabapathy, director of Baylor Global Health and professor of medicine and gastroenterology, the Smart Pod concept is now being expanded to address other healthcare needs. Liberia, which was impacted by the Ebola outbreak, is now facing a shortage of suitable laboratory facilities, equipment, and adequately trained personnel.

Members of the Baylor Global Health group recently traveled to Monrovia, Liberia, to deploy mobile laboratory units with advanced biosafety protection at the University of Liberia. The project was sponsored by the Paul Allen Family Foundation to increase and improve the response to disease outbreaks and emergencies like Ebola.

The team deployed three fully functional Lab Pod units, including a pharmacy unit. These units are retrofitted shipping containers that have been modified to expand and accommodate more trainees and equipment.

Before being transported to Liberia, the mobile laboratory facilities were validated at Baylor’s campus by Dr. Elena Petrova, director of technology development with Baylor Global Health, in collaboration with Dr. Pedro Piedra. The units will be used on a day-to-day basis for the training of students and faculty at the University of Liberia. In the event of an outbreak, the pods can be rapidly deployed to any remote area of Liberia, by truck or helicopter, to increase response to potential outbreaks.

“We learned the importance of adapting our innovations to low-resource environments. Deployment of a pod near an outbreak area cuts laboratory processing time significantly, thereby increasing chances of survival for patients and reducing risk of exposure for other patients, family members, and others in the community,” said Madeleine Allman, research coordinator with Baylor Global Health.

See photos from the trip in gallery below.

-By Nicole Blanton

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