Open innovation to solve a worldwide health problem
18 OCTOBER 2012, ROTTERDAM
SummaryA community of experts is joining forces to solve the worldwide problem of mercury poisoning. Enviu and Clear Light Ventures started an online open source competition, the Toxic Metal Challenge, to scout ideas for a self-test. With a self-test, people can prevent health damage caused by high levels of mercury in their bodies. The winner of the challenge will get the opportunity to further develop the idea into a prototype with an investment from Clear Light Ventures.
Crowdsourcing: the solution for mercury poisoning
More and more, research is showing the relationship between relatively low levels of mercury and certain health problems, mainly in children. Sources that contribute to the accumulation of methyl mercury levels in the human body are certain types of fish, air pollution and amalgam dental fillings.
Enviu is joining forces with a social venture capitalist from Silicon Valley to give people the opportunity to screen the level of mercury in their blood themselves, and take the results to their doctor. Removing mercury from the body is fairly easy. “We started the Toxic Metal Challenge because millions of people around the world have a high level of methyl mercury in their bodies. People can develop chronic illnesses because of this. Pregnant women and their unborn children are especially at risk”, explains venture capitalist Peter Sullivan from Clear Light Ventures.
Enviu uses crowdsourcing to come up with ideas for screening kits. “We believe in crowdsourcing because it´s effective and fast, but mostly because it’s a fun way to generate world changing ideas, incorporating the expertise of different people”, says Fransje de Gelder of Enviu.
Research on mercury poisoning
Research from the Centre of Disease Control (USA) shows that 10% of women of childbearing age have levels of mercury in their bodies which can lead to birth defects. 630,000 Babies a year risk neurological problems. One out of four New Yorkers suffers from heavy metal poisoning due to the consumption of fish, like tuna and swordfish. The Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority is also warning against disproportionate consumption of certain types of fish, for example fish that is used for the preparation of sushi.
Screening for mercury poisoning
Because of the lack of awareness among healthcare providers people are rarely tested for mercury poisoning., the current testing method is invasive and needs a complicated device . The solution is to come up with a non-invasive and easy-to-use screening kit. Enviu is now crowdsouring this screening kit with a worldwide network of experts.
"“We started the Toxic Metal Challenge because millions of people around the world have a high level of methyl mercury in their bodies. People can develop chronic illnesses because of this. Pregnant women and their unborn children are especially at risk”" Peter Sullivan, founder Clear Light Ventures
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