2015 Award Recipients

Patents for humanity - it's not just an invention


Watch the webcast from the Patents for Humanity award ceremony at the White House

The 2015 Patents for Humanity awards ceremony recognizes seven recipients in five categories, plus three honorable mentions, selected from the 2014 application period. Read more about their stories below.Read the press release announcing the 2015 award winners.

Award Winners

Drugs & vaccines icon  Medicine


for supplying large quantities of anti-malarial compounds on an at-cost basis for use in developing countries.

Artemisinin is an important antimalarial drug derived from the sweet wormwood plant in Asia and Africa.  Growing cycles, crop yields, and weather cause supply volatility of artemisinin, making it difficult to obtain at times.  To address this problem, a public-private partnership to create synthetic artemisinin was formed in 2004 by PATH, the University of California Berkeley (2013 Patents for Humanity award winner), and Amyris, Inc., with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  In 2007, Sanofi joined the project as the manufacturing partner for their chemical expertise and industrial capacity, taking this project from laboratory experiments to factory production. Sanofi is now supplying large quantities of artemisinin anti-malarial compounds on a no-profit-no-loss basis for use in developing countries. Visit Sanofi’s website.

Novartis AG

for identifying new drug compounds for potentially treating drug-resistant tuberculosis and providing them to the non-profit TB Alliance for further development.

Tuberculosis kills more adults worldwide than any infectious disease besides HIV/AIDS.  One of the biggest challenges facing tuberculosis researchers is how to combat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, which is caused by an organism that is resistant to the most potent tuberculosis drugs.  Novartis has discovered a class of compounds called indolcarboxamides that are active against drug-sensitive and multidrug-resistant strains of tuberculosis.  In an arrangement requiring no upfront or milestone payments, Novartis has provided their entire tuberculosis R&D program, including these compounds, to the TB Alliance, a non-profit product development partnership that seeks to find new and improved tuberculosis treatment regimens.  The agreement allows the TB Alliance to develop these compounds further into potential tuberculosis treatments and potentially conduct clinical trials.  Early toxicology, safety, and therapeutic studies have been promising. Visit Novartis's website.


Clean Tech icon Sanitation

American Standard

for distributing 700,000 “SaTo” safe toilet latrine pans to communities in Africa and Southeast Asia.

American Standard’s “SaTo” (Safe Toilet) Technology was created for people worldwide who do not have access to safe, basic sanitation. The SaTo Technology includes specially designed latrine pans and collectors with a counterweighted trapdoor-like flapper that can be flushed by pouring a small amount of water onto it.  Upon closure, the flapper door creates an air-tight seal that reduces odors and prevents insects from entering and exiting the pit, eliminating a primary route of disease transmission.  American Standard has partnered with BRAC, UNICEF, Save the Children, and other NGOs to distribute SaTo pans and collectors throughout the developing world.  Over 700,000 SaTo pans have been distributed in Bangladesh, Uganda, Haiti, Malawi, and the Philippines. Visit American Standard’s website..


Energy icon  Energy

SunPower Corp

for providing rechargeable lanterns as a safer alternative to kerosene lamps in Philippine villages, via shipping containers converted into portable, solar-powered energy stations.

Nearly 18 percent of the world’s population is energy impoverished.  Traditional forms of lighting are combustion-based (firewood, charcoal, kerosene and dung), contributing to an estimated 3.5 million deaths a year from health impacts and house fires.  For these communities, SunPower has outfitted a standard shipping container with solar panels on top and equipment inside to power hundreds of safe, rechargeable lanterns.  Locals rent these lanterns for a small fee which is then reinvested to expand and improve the program.  SunPower donates the container and supplies to partner organizations, along with ongoing technical support. Visit SunPower’s website.


Nutrition icon  Nutrition


for fighting childhood malnutrition by creating a worldwide network of partners to supply their patented Plumpy’Nut® formula using local ingredients.

According to UNICEF, as many as 67 million children suffer from acute malnutrition every year.  Children suffering from prolonged malnutrition often develop digestive problems that interfere with eating more food, causing further health problems and death.  Nutriset developed nutritional products made from peanuts and other ingredients that helps malnourished children quickly and safely regain weight and digestive function.  In addition to delivering their Plumpy’Nut branded products throughout the world with partners like UNICEF and USAID, Nutriset also offers open licensing to producers in the developing world so communities can work toward self-sufficiency.  Their PlumpyField® network assembles entrepreneurs in participating countries to manufacture the Plumpy’ range of products for local needs. Visit Nutriset’s website.

Golden Rice

for creating vitamin-A enriched strains of rice to prevent thousands of cases of blindness and death each day in people who subsist primarily on rice.

Despite current interventions, vitamin A deficiency is the leading killer of children globally (2-3 million annually) and also the leading cause of childhood blindness (500,000 cases annually). Most cases arise in Asia where the staple food eaten by 3.5 billion people daily, white rice, lacks vitamin A sources typically found in meat and leafy vegetables. These deaths and blindness are preventable.

Golden Rice was genetically enhanced to provide a source of vitamin A for people subsisting mainly on rice. Professors Potrykus and Beyer invented the technology after a decade of research, and have worked with Dr. Dubock since 2000 to donate it to the resource poor in developing countries. Patenting the technology allowed the inventors to partner with Syngenta on commercial projects in return for support of their humanitarian objectives to make Golden Rice available free of charge to those in need.  Local Golden Rice varieties are currently being developed by public sector institutions in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam, with a target cost no more than white rice. Visit Golden Rice’s website.


Living Standards icon  Living Standards

GRIT: Global Research Innovation & Technology

for developing an all-terrain wheelchair using readily available bicycle parts for use in India, Guatemala, Haiti, and other locations.

An estimated 65 million people in the developing world require wheelchairs.  However, conventional wheelchairs don’t function well on the rough and uneven terrain commonly found in developing regions. GRIT was created by engineering graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to increase mobility for the disabled around the world.  Their three-wheel Leveraged Freedom Chair uses a push-lever drivetrain to help people move over broken pavement, dirt roads, fields, hills, rocky terrain and more.  It’s built from standard bicycle parts to enable local repairs with available materials.  After graduating, the MIT students founded GRIT to bring the product to market, and MIT assisted by transferring the patent rights to GRIT for further development. The chair has been distributed in partnership with the World Bank, Red Cross, and others in India, Brazil, Guatemala, Guinea, Kenya, Haiti, Easter Island, Nepal, and Tanzania. A new version of the Leveraged Freedom Chair, known simply as the Freedom Chair, is now available in the United States for recreational use, helping Americans move beyond the pavement. Visit GRIT’s website.


Honorable Mentions

The application field was very competitive and there were many great submissions that we could not recognize. These honorable mentions represent the finest such entries that deserve special recognition for their work. Efforts like these to improve the lives of the less fortunate with game-changing technology are vital to overcoming the global challenges facing humanity.

  • Case Western Reserve University for creating a novel, low-cost, accurate malaria detection device to improve treatment.
  • InBios International for developing and distributing diagnostic assays for early detection of dengue fever, improving patient outcomes and aiding disease surveillance.
  • FlameStower for creating a device to convert excess heat energy from cooking stoves into electricity to charge phones and other devices, decreasing the cost of energy access for those living in off-grid regions of the world.