A Streamlined Device To Treat Infant Jaundice, Designed For The World’s Poorest

How to make products that work well–and cheap enough that people in the developing world can actually use them.

Over two years ago, D-Rev–a nonprofit technology design firm in the Bay Area–launched a device that has helped tens of thousands of babies in the developing world. Now the Brilliance Classic, a phototherapy lamp that treats severe jaundice in newborns, is getting an upgrade.


The Brilliance Classic was revolutionary for a handful of reasons: It’s relatively cheap ($400 compared to about $3,000 for similar devices sold it the U.S.), it can last a decade, and it’s well-designed. That combination of effectiveness, affordability, and design has led to sales of over 1,100 units in 23 countries. Some 43,000 babies have been treated with the device.

But after launch, D-Rev realized that further design improvements were possible for a small increase in price. “You get really good feedback once a product goes into production. Early on, we knew there were going to be some design changes to improve usability and manufacturability,” says CEO Krista Donaldson.

The new Brilliance Pro (cost: $500) is based on that feedback. In the Brilliance Classic, light intensity from the device wasn’t always consistent, depending on the angle that its head was tilted. The “SmartTilt” technology in the Brilliance Pro means that the blue LED lighting is consistent no matter the head tilt. The light’s head is also easier to adjust.

The device also has an integrated light meter, which can measure the phototherapy treatment’s intensity to ensure that it’s working. “This is a standard piece of equipment in hospitals in industrialized countries,” explains Donaldson.

D-Rev’s new Brilliance model recently won the Best in Show award at India’s biggest neonatal conference, besting larger competitors like GE. This was, Donaldson says, due in large part to the Brilliance Pro’s streamlined design. “We’ve seen a lot of interest from middle and high-income markets, which builds credibility with our target markets,” she says. “My sense is that getting the NeoCon award will help build credibility in general. Because of the price point, sometimes we get a reaction like, ‘Why is this so cheap?'”

Sometimes, cheaper is better.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.