Current & Future Work


In 2019, the Foundation instituted a formal Gender Policy to support our commitment to gender equality. This policy applies a comprehensive gender perspective to all of our work. A cornerstone of this commitment is increasing the number of women in leadership roles – within the institutions submitting grant proposals, as the drivers of research and capacity-building programs, and as the implementers of interventions. This commitment expands our impact on global health by creating inclusive economic development in LMICs, and by reducing inequality across core industry sectors.

Agricultural Transformation Initiative Affiliate’s Work

The Agricultural Transformation Initiative’s work has included:

  • Centre for Agricultural Transformation (CAT)
    The CAT program, which combines scientific research, smallholder farming, business incubation, and large-scale commercialization to facilitate transformational agricultural development, has chosen groundnuts as their preliminary value chain focus. In 2019, the CAT program successfully completed their first AgTech Challenge, which took place one day prior to the Agricultural Transformation Summit. The event called for primary, secondary, and tertiary students to generate innovative ideas for labor-saving interventions in groundnut production. Out of over 60 applicants, 19 finalists were invited to attend the Summit to demonstrate their prototypes and designs. William Kamkwamba (author of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) mentored the students alongside the CAT team.
  • Investment Support Facility (ISF) for Inclusive Smallholder Transactions
    The ISF program, which supports the packaging of international investor-grade transactions with smallholder-inclusive business models, wrapped up its financial sector and crop insurance scoping activities. ISF has held workshops where investors collaborated with a group of pre-vetted Transaction Advisory Service Providers (TASPs) to build relationships, manage expectations, and exchange information in advance of the Summit. The ISF is working with local TASPs to support the development of a strong cadre of transactions that focus on smallholder impact.
  • MwAPATA Institute
    The MwAPATA Institute, which translates into “we’ve achieved it” in Chichewa, is an independent policy think tank run by Michigan State University (MSU). The Institute works closely with the Malawi National Planning Commission, the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), and other groups to accelerate the adoption of Malawian-led programs that drive agricultural transformation and improve smallholder incomes and nutrition. MwAPATA completed its first major research initiatives, including: (1) the ATI Baseline Survey of 3,500 smallholder households; and (2) an extension experiment in collaboration with the national agricultural extension service.
  • ATI Fellowship and Scholarship Fund
    The ATI Fellowship and Scholarship Fund, managed by the Institute of International Education, received over 1000 applications from Malawians for higher education funding. An independent Selection Committee that does not include any representatives from ATI or FSFW, selected 19 master’s students from Malawi to attend universities in the United States. They will study agriculture, data science, ecology/environmental science, engineering, and business. The Committee also selected seven postdoctoral fellows to join research programs at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.
  • Technology-Enhanced Finance and Training Extension Pilot
    Implemented by Opportunity International, the pilot program has equipped and trained 90 Farmer Support Agents (FSAs) to deliver last-mile financial and extension services to smallholder farmers. Support focuses on training in financial literacy, gender equity, and the paprika, soy, and groundnut value chains as income alternatives to tobacco. Over 4,000 farmers have been profiled across 163 metrics.
  • Opportunity International (OI)
    Opportunity International (OI) is dedicated to improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. With support from an ATI grant, OI teaches farmers to employ good agricultural practices and increase their profitability by using a mobile-based last mile delivery platform. To date, the program has trained 219 field service and bank agents, 41% of whom are women.

Tomorrow's Researchers

The Foundation works with partners to embrace innovation that could not have been imagined just a few years ago. Whether leveraging mobile technology to deliver cessation services in LMICs or developing remote diagnostics tools for clinical trials, these 21st century innovations enable greater access and collaboration, which, in turn, improves program efficacy.


Cambridge Design Partnership (CDP)
CDP is investigating the barriers to adoption of reduced risk products in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This research focuses on consumer behavior in the four LMICs with the highest smoking rates (India, Indonesia, China, and Russia), as well as regulatory, commercial, and technological barriers that prevent switching.

Biomarkers Research
Several grantees are working to identify biomarkers that can help distinguish between users of different nicotine products. These biomarkers are crucial to conducting clinical research and cohort studies.

Analytisch-Biologisches Forschungslabor (ABF) GmBH
This group out of Germany is conducting a clinical trial collecting blood, urine, and exhaled breath to develop methods for identifying biomarkers that can discriminate between six distinct user groups.

Behavioral Diagnostics
The diagnostic test innovator is utilizing epigenetic markers to distinguish between users of cigarettes, e-cigarettes/vape, and chewing tobacco. This technique would not only determine product use but also quantify the number of cigarettes smoked. Methylation signatures have been collected for about 500 subjects as enrollment continues.

Lumos Diagnostics
Lumos is working to create a low-cost standalone and/or a multiplex point-of-care lateral flow device to confirm the use of cigarettes, e-cigarettes/vape, chewing tobacco and/or oral/dermal nicotine through the detection of urinary biomarkers.

Agenome is developing techniques to assess cancer risk in smokers through next-generation sequencing (NGS) and profiling of circulating free DNA and RNA. More than 300 samples have been collected and processed with the goal of detecting biomarkers that could predict cancer and other diseases.

Telenor Health
This mobile health organization out of Dhaka, Bangladesh has developed a roadmap for 21st century smoking cessation in the developing world. Telenor has designed a system to provide remote support to millions of smokers who might otherwise lack access to cessation services. The mobile technology platform offers video behavioral and clinical support, access to information about cessation products, and digital assistance in quitting.