Particles for Humanity


Steve Allen
Sherri Oberg

Particles for Humanity is a public benefit corporation working to leverage medical technology and early-stage inventions to improve the health of billions of people in low-resource settings in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

With 2 billion people around the world having enough calories to eat but remaining malnourished, one of two focal points of PFH's work is the reduction of micronutrient deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency in particular is a tremendous health threat, especially for children and pregnant mothers. In more severe form Vitamin A deficiency often leads to blindness, and all degrees of deficiency frequently lead to diminished immune function, leaving large swaths of Vitamin A-deficient populations at risk of severe illness from measles and diarrhea, among other illnesses.

As Sue Horton, France Begin, Alison Greig, and Anand Lakshman point out in a Best Practice paper from the Copenhaegn Consensus Center, "Studies have shown that vitamin A supplementation (VAS) of children under five at risk of deficiency can reduce all‐cause mortality by 23% (Beaton et al, 1993). This has been further supported by the recent Lancet journal series on child survival that identified vitamin A supplementation as one of the key proven interventions to reduce child mortality (Jones et al, 2003).". They also point out that interventions have the potential for very high benefit:cost ratios.

Fortifying staple foods and condiments is a proven strategy for reducing hidden hunger, but this approach has had limited success with vitamin A because it is unstable when exposed to heat, light, and water during storage and cooking. Microencapsulation technology which PFH has pioneered allows nutrients to stay stable during cooking and storage. Its product, PFH-VAP, will enable the integration of vitamin A into bouillon—a condiment consumed by 80% of sub-Saharan Africa—and its delivery to millions of people.

Digitalis Commons is serving in an advisory role to this mission, working closely with the Particles for Humanity team on business strategy to help ensure that the project can successfully achieve its aims.

To learn more about Vitamin A deficiency and solutions for low-resource settings, read the pioneering work from the Copenhagen Consensus Center by authors Sue Horton, et al:

Micronutrient Supplements for Child Survival (Vitamin A and Zinc): Best Practice Paper
Sue Horton, France Begin, Alison Greig and Anand Lakshman

Hunger and Malnutrition: Copenhagen Consensus 2008 Assessment Paper
Sue Horton, H. Alderman, J.A. Rivera