TL1 scholar Margo Klar awarded phase II Grand Challenges Exploration funding to test novel device designed to reduce umbilical cord infection

Margo Klar, Ph.D. student and CTSI TL1 scholar

Margo Klar, M.P.H., a University of Florida CTSI TL1 Scholar and a doctoral student in the department of epidemiology at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and the UF College of Medicine, has received nearly half a million dollars in phase II funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables individuals worldwide to test bold ideas to address persistent health and development challenges.

Klar will use the funding to test the feasibility of a ceramic umbilical cord-cutting device she invented to reduce umbilical cord infection in low-resource countries. Called the Ceramic Cord Cutting Device, or C3D, the device does not rust, is reusable and easily sterilized, and can be used safely without injury to newborns or health care workers. She is now conducting focus groups and in-depth interviews with midwives, nurses and physicians in seven countries in Africa and Southeast Asia to understand birthing practices and willingness to use C3D daily, seeking feedback for further enhancements.

In 2012 Klar received $100,000 of phase I Grand Challenges Explorations funding to develop the C3D. Her CTSI TL1 predoctoral training grant awarded in 2013 allowed Klar to extend her research begun with the phase I grant to design the C3D prototype for ease of use and sterilization properties. Klar credits her CTS training and consultation with CTSI research navigators for guiding her successful pursuit of additional Gates funding, including consultation with Wajeeh Bajwa, Ph.D., CTSI director of regulatory affairs, on regulatory issues related to the C3D. The TL1 Program also has fostered creation of her multidisciplinary mentoring team with two epidemiologists, a microbiologist, a nurse, and two engineers.

“Working with my mentors, regardless of their research and interests, is very inspirational for me. It’s amazing what challenges can be overcome by bringing so many brilliant and caring people together,” said Klar of her mentors.

Klar’s UF research team includes mentor Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., M.P.H., chair of the department of epidemiology and co-director of the CTSI Community Engagement and Research Program, Deepthi Varma, Ph.D., of the department of epidemiology, Judy Johnson, Ph.D., of the College of Medicine, Jane Houston, D.N.P., from the College of Nursing, and Peter S. McFetridge, Ph.D., and Juan C. Nino, Ph.D., both from the College of Engineering. Catherine Yeckel, Ph.D., Klar’s master’s degree mentor at Yale University School of Public Health, supported and encouraged Klar during the phase I submission process.

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