2.9 million babies die each year in their first month of life. Safely and practically administering vital medicine to infants is a global challenge — especially in certain countries where access to safe healthcare is limited. The very first hours and days of an infant’s life carry the most risk. Recognising the difficulty faced by parents and healthcare staff in administering medical care to these young ones, one company has created an innovative solution: JustMilk.
So how does it work?
JustMilk is a disposable silicone device, which is designed to administer medicine and nutrients to infants via the flow of breast milk. The device is super-thin, meaning that medicine can be administered discreetly and effectively during the breastfeeding stage. Although the device is still in its testing stage — the company hopes the device can be used “in the global fight against malnutrition, infectious diseases and other health crises.”
We caught up with Geoff Galgon, president and co-founder of JustMilk, to find out more about how the JustMilk device is innovating in the health sphere. When faced with the design challenge of preventing the transmission of HIV during breastfeeding, the team hit on an idea that could be used to deliver a range of drugs and nutrients via breast milk. And the extent of its use is pretty neat — Galgon told how the system “will be used by a mother during breastfeeding to release therapeutics such as antimalarials, antiretrovirals, antibiotics and micronutrients.”
The device will allow mothers to improve their newborns’ chance at life in a safe, measured way — spoons, dosing cups and oral syringes all deliver liquid formulations and can lead to dosing errors and unhygienic delivery.
When will we see the JustMilk device across the world?
To date, the company has been conducting extensive research into how well the device will be received culturally across the globe, and how it can integrate safely and effectively with breastfeeding. Its ability to prevent the passing of infectious diseases such as HIV between mother and child were found to be of great importance during studies in Kenya, and work with the University of Venda in Limpopo, South Africa found that the region preferred the JustMilk device over current methods of drug administration.
Throughout this testing phase, JustMilk has worked closely with educational institutes from across the UK including the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge and University College London’s School of Pharmacy. Here the team has conducted taste panels, tablet formulation development and testing, and dermatological work. Beyond the UK, important work is being done in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Venda, South Africa.
“Having multiple geographic centers (primarily Cambridge, UK and California, US) has some challenges, but also benefits including the diversity of perspectives, talent, and resources that we can work with” Galgon told Mashable. “We have been very fortunate to have our technical work led at the University of Cambridge as well as our aforementioned business school programme involvement there — it has been a great environment for development.”
The JustMilk vision of integrating breastfeeding with therapeutic administration or supplementation is unique and has the potential to completely reshape the healthcare offered to infants worldwide. By encouraging the natural and healthy practice of breastfeeding and influencing the bioavailability of intended therapeutics by using breast milk to deliver vital medicines and nutrients, the team behind JustMilk just might change the face of healthcare worldwide.