Patents for Humanity Recognizes Infant Warmer

October 23, 2020

An infant-warming device developed by two researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) was recently recognized with an honorable mention in the 2020 Patents for Humanity awards.

The Warming Indicator, a phase-change material temperature indicator, is an addition to the Infant Warmer that improves the latter’s functionality and safety. The Infant Warmer is a low-cost, convenient, re-usable, and non-electric wrap-around pad that maintains a temperature of 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the average human core temperature) for approximately six hours for a newborn infant. Both technologies are being licensed to a non-profit for scale up in Africa.

Designed by Berkeley Lab researchers Ashok Gadgil and Vi Rapp, the device offers warmth to a newborn infant when skin-to-skin care is inadequate or infeasible, helping to prevent infant hypothermia. It was one of two honorable mentions, along with six winners, in the Patents for Humanity awards, which are granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“The Warming Indicator improves reliability and reduces the cost of our original infant warmer design,” said Rapp. “This simple temperature indicator will enable widespread adoption of Berkeley Lab’s infant warmer, helping prevent neonatal hypothermia.”  

Global Newborn Solutions™ has licensed the Warming Indicator technology and, in collaboration with Harvard Medical School, has tested it at least 204 times in district hospitals and health centers throughout Rwanda. In trials, 98 percent of infants achieved or maintained normal temperature with use of the warmer.

“We are very pleased to receive this recognition from the U.S. Patent Office,” Gadgil added. “The ease of use, safety, and functionality of the Infant Warmer is now hugely improved with this Warming Indicator, according to the feedback from nurses in Rwanda hospitals where it was tested.”   

Ashok Gadgil and Vi Rapp would like to recognize the contributions of Jonathan Slack, Roger Sathre, Mike Elam, Howdy Goudey, numerous student volunteers, and additional LBNL employees for creating the original infant warmer mat design they patented in 2015 and was tested in Rwanda in 2016. Their work made the current invention possible. The original LBNL-patented design was found unsuitable for mass manufacturing and was redesigned by outside contractors with support from Ashok Gadgil and Vi Rapp. The USPTO award mentioned in the above article is for the warming indicator addition to the new design. Currently (2019-2020), the new design with the warming indicator is being tested in Rwanda.