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Research and innovation
News article14 February 2018Directorate-General for Research and Innovation

Commission awards a €1 million Horizon prize to a solution that saves lives of mothers and their newborn

Research team from the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in France, led by Prof Alexandre Dumont, won the first €1 million Horizon Birth Day Prize for their work that has cut the number of deaths of new mothers in hospitals in Mali and Senegal by as much as a third.

The second place award (€1 million) went to Dr Owens Wiwa and his team at the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) for the application CHAI MNH Nigeria, and the third (€500,000) to Prof Haleema Shakur-Still of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and her team for the WOMAN Trial.

The Horizon Birth Day Prize is an initiative of the European Commission which has committed €1 million from Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged another €1 million and the MSD for Mothers donated a further €500,000.

The Prizes were awarded on 13 February 2018 in Brussels by Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Mark Suzman, Chief Strategy Officer and President, Global Policy & Advocacy, for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Clarisse Lhoste, Managing Director, MSD Belgium and Luxembourg, and MSD for Mothers’ senior executive Ambassador.

Commissioner Moedas said:

It's tragic to see that so many mothers or their new-born babies die at childbirth. The Horizon Birth Day Prize reward several projects that aim at preventing these deaths. The collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MSD for Mothers is an excellent example of how we can pool strength and resources to make a difference and to save lives.

The winning solution, QUARITE (Quality of care, risk management, and technology in obstetrics to reduce hospital-based maternal mortality in Senegal and Mali), developed a method of analysing and tracing the causes of maternal deaths in hospitals in these two low-income countries, and then applied that knowledge to prevent more deaths. This reduced maternal deaths in hospitals overall by 15%, and by as much as 35% in district hospitals.

The second winner, CHAI’s integrated maternal and neonatal health program was implemented across a total population of approximatively 10 million people in Northern Nigeria, resulting in externally validated maternal and neonatal mortality reductions of 37% and 43% respectively in 12 months.. CHAI’s approach focused on identifying potential complications early, applying simple interventions immediately and when required, quickly referring mother and child to the appropriate level of the health system.

Mark Suzman, Chief Strategy Officer and President, Global Policy & Advocacy, for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said:

The Birth Day Prize is especially exciting because it recognizes and celebrates innovation for an extremely important purpose – improving the health of mothers and their babies. We hope to see more and more innovative approaches like this that can improve people’s lives and accelerate progress in global health and development around the world.

The third winner, the WOMAN Trial run by Prof Haleema Shakur-Still and her team of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, tested and validated the use of a blood clot stabilising drug as a first line treatment for post-delivery bleeding, the leading cause of maternal mortality around the world.

Clarisse Lhoste, Managing Director, MSD Belgium and Luxembourg, and MSD for Mothers’ senior executive Ambassador, said:

MSD for Mothers is delighted to have taken part in the Birth Day Prize’s adventure and congratulates the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for the WOMAN Trial project. Innovation is at the core of everything we do and how we do it, with only one goal in mind: improving people’s health worldwide. The road to end maternal mortality doesn’t stop here today, there is a still long way to go and we remain committed to contribute to ensuring that no woman dies giving life.


According to UNICEF, 5.9 million children per year die before their 5th birthday, of which 2.65 million are newborn babies. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 300,000 women died in 2015 from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. According to WHO figures, for every woman dying of pregnancy-related complications every year, between 20 and 30 others experience permanent side-effects that undermine their ability to function normally. Although, maternal mortality rate has decreased by almost half within the European region between 2000 and 2015, (from 33 to 16 deaths per 100.000 live births), it is almost 60% higher in low-income countries outside Europe.

Through EU programmes for research and innovation, namely Horizon 2020 (2014-20), and its predecessor, FP7 (2007-13), the Commission has invested more than €740 million into research related to maternal and newborn health.

Horizon Prizes are 'challenge' prizes (also known as ‘inducement' prizes) offering a cash reward to whoever can most effectively meet a defined challenge. Horizon Prizes do not prescribe the methodology or any technical details, giving applicants total freedom to come up with the most promising and effective solution.

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Publication date
14 February 2018
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation