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Birth day prize - € 1 million


On 13 February 2018, Carlos Moedas, EU 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 awarded the Horizon Birth Day Prize at a ceremony in Brussels, Belgium.

The 'Birth day' Prize is an initiative of the European Commission which has committed €1 million, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledging another €1 million and a further €500 000 donated by the MSD for Mothers.

The €1 million first winner awarded by European Commission went to the research team from the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in France, led by Prof Alexandre Dumont. The 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.

CHAI MNH Nigeria (team led by Dr Owens Wiwa of the Clinton Health Access Initiative) is the second winner of the Horizon Birth Day Prize. The €1 million award was committed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This is a managerial intervention at district level, involving health centres and hospitals and skilled birth attendants. It is an integrated programme focused on ensuring that at risk deliveries occurring in communities or health facilities are referred upwards in the system and dealt with on time.

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. The € 500,000 cheque was awarded by MSD for Mothers.

Maternal and newborn health is high on the Commission's agenda, as the research projects funded by DG Research and Innovation cover a wide range of the challenges faced by mothers and their infants all over the world: premature birth, prevention and treatment of infectious and non-communicable diseases, reproductive and sexual health promotion, improved guidelines and evidence base for safer deliveries. Through EU programmes for research and innovation, namely Horizon 2020, and its predecessor, the 7th Framework Programme, the Commission has invested more than €740 million into research related to maternal and newborn health.


Why this Prize?

Around the world, hundreds of thousands of women and babies die on the day of birth, and millions more are left with serious illness.

Thanks to global efforts, since 1990 maternal deaths have dropped worldwide by 44%. However, deaths and serious health effects for both mothers and their new babies are still unacceptably high, especially in low and middle income countries.

Some figures:

  • A recent WHO report estimates that 303 000 women died in 2015 from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth
  • According to UNICEF, 5.9 million children per year die before their 5th birthday, of which 2.65 million are newborn babies
  • 99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries; most of these are due to preventable or treatable conditions (source: WHO factsheet)


The Horizon Prize for the Birth day will be awarded to a solution that best demonstrates a reduction in maternal and/or newborn morbidity and mortality and/or stillbirths during facility-based deliveries. This solution will need to be novel, safe and scalable.

Details for the award of the prize are specified in the Rules of Contest



  • 6 September 2017: submission closed
  • 13 February 2018: the winners were officially announced at the award ceremony



Birth Day prize

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