At a glance
- The Maternal, Newborn & Child Health Discovery & Tools team is responsible for all of the foundation’s research and development investments pertaining to maternal, newborn, and child health.
- We work to address underlying biological vulnerabilities such as malnutrition and preterm birth to help ensure healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.
- We focus on the period between conception and age 2, when addressing biological vulnerabilities has a disproportionate impact.
- We work with other foundation teams, including Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, to conduct research, advocate for policy change, and introduce new tools in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
Our work to improve the health of mothers and babies is guided by two priorities: to focus more on biological vulnerabilities than disease-specific conditions, and to focus on the period between conception and age 2, the period in which addressing biological vulnerabilities can have the greatest impact. We believe that these priorities are critical to improving the resilience of pregnant women and babies and expanding the pipeline of interventions that specifically address their needs.
Areas of focus
We support research on the fundamental biology of maternal and newborn health vulnerabilities; data collection and analysis to understand the burden of those conditions; and data modeling to understand the impact and cost-effectiveness of new tools. We collaborate with other foundation teams, including Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, to conduct implementation research, advocate for policy change, and introduce new tools in high-burden areas in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
We invest in non-vaccine tools that target the period between conception and age 2 to address the root causes of poor maternal and child health. Our three product development initiatives focus on drugs; food and microbes; and risk stratification, algorithms, and devices.
Why focus on discovery and tools for maternal, newborn, and child health?
Improvements in maternal, newborn, and child survival are among the most significant achievements in global health in the 21st century. Since 2000, childhood mortality has decreased by 43% and maternal mortality has decreased by 29%.
But health conditions that specifically affect women continue to receive too little attention, and vulnerabilities among children are now concentrated earlier in life, with causes that are more complex to address. To accelerate progress—and to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal targets for reducing maternal and child mortality by 2030—we must address underlying vulnerabilities that often begin with the mother, are compounded by the physical stresses of pregnancy, and are tragically passed on to the baby, perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of poor health.
We believe it’s possible to interrupt this cycle by addressing the risk factors for both mother and baby, including intrauterine growth restriction, preeclampsia, prematurity, stunting, and wasting. To do this, we need a bold research and development agenda to identify, target, and ultimately reverse underlying biological vulnerabilities. For example, our early investments have shown that selenium deficiency is linked to preterm birth and that combinations of prebiotic and probiotic therapies can reduce sepsis in newborns.