Penn State Tech Startup Kijenzi: Improving the Medical Equipment Supply Chain in Kenya’s Clinics

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The topic of healthcare and associated challenges is universal, but in areas like Kenya, some may find it impossible to get the care they need in rural areas; in fact, medical professionals for public care are so scarce that there may be as little as one doctor for every 17,000 people. And still, extremely low numbers of doctors are trained in Kenya each year. This means that individuals living in more remote areas may be completely out of luck if they are sick or injured, and public clinics may be devoid of necessary supplies, medical devices, and much needed to take care of their population.

Kijenzi is a tech startup with humanitarian concern. Recently, their objective was to provide 3D printers to clinics in more distant areas of Kenya, with co-founders John K. Gershenson (also director of the Penn State Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program), Benjamin Savonen (doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering), and other students all working together on the international 3D printing project. As they delved further into the real issues with obtaining medical equipment in Kenya, however, the team realized that what was necessary was for medical teams at Kenyan clinics to have access to CAD files so they could fabricate equipment on their own.

From left: Ben Savonen, John Gershenson, Anne Pauley, and Tobias Mahan are a few of many team members bringing interdisciplinary knowledge to the Kijenzi venture. (Photo credit: Michelle Bixby)

Overcoming obstacles in the medical supply chain is key to providing better care to patients in Kenya, but this central focus wasn’t pinpointed until the Kijenzi team was actually in the midst of their initial idea to provide a ‘moveable 3D printer,’ meant to travel from clinic to clinic and product necessary parts. Giving the clinics the latitude to work with files from a cloud-based system opened up a completely new realm of self-sustainability in production.

“Our customers are health care facilities that don’t have access to the supply chains they need and over 40 percent don’t have the equipment needed to treat their patients. We bring the ability to locally manufacture what they need, when they need it. That is a game changer for access to treatment,” said Gershenson.

Kijenzi was born out of the Penn State Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship program (HESE) meant to propel both students and faculty into dreaming up new solutions in the tech sector that will help the world—and mainly in lower-income regions—with solid new business models that may not have been possible before without innovation such as 3D printing. Kijenzi then evolved and expanded further while the founders participated in the Ben Franklin Technology Center’s TechCelerator program, a partnership with Invent Penn State that lasts ten weeks and includes multiple sessions with mentors, along with educational seminars regarding subjects like creating a business model, finances, creating intellectual property, and more.

“The TechCelerator gave us the time and feedback we needed to craft the story of Kijenzi in such a way that everyone could understand what we are doing,” said Gershenson.

The team also came in second place in the IdeaMakers Challenge with their proposed plans for Kijenzi in Africa. After that, they competed in the Penn State’s 2018 Smeal College of Business Supply Chain Pitch Contest, winning first place, and a cash award of $6,000.

Kijenzi engineer Alenna Beroza, right, shows off 3D-printed parts designed with and for nurse/administrator Jennifer Simani and biomedical engineer Daniel Obego. Beroza has spent the last four months working in Kombewa District Hospital, co-developing and testing parts with local professionals and Kijenzi engineers in the United States. (Photo credit: Kijenzi)

Their new system for encouraging 3D printing and an improved medical supply chain has the potential to reach far beyond just the Kenya project, launching this May. They say that currently they have requests for 400 different parts in their system, and while medicine is a central focus, their concepts can be helpful to many other applications also. Find out more about Kijenzi in the video below, as well as checking out some of the other stories we have followed around the world as innovators have worked to design devices like 3D printed prosthetics for use in developing countries, 3D printed microscope attachments for field diagnostics, and even 3D printed devices for measuring water quality.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Source: Penn State]

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