The hood has a huge plastic panel for a full view of the wearer’s face, and an antifog breathing apparatus. Elastic straps at the fingers keep the sleeves anchored on the wearer’s wrists and allow for outer gloves to be pulled off when doffing the suit. Straps at the back of the head let a person rip the suit off, with a tearaway zipper and two velcroed ties at the front that you lean forward to step on and pull the suit off as you curl up like a snake shedding its skin. The suit is yellow on the outside and white on the inside, so it’s easier to tell which parts might be contaminated. The material for the next-gen Ebola suit is Tychem QC, a Tyvek fabric with a polyethylene coating produced by Dupont. The goal is for the suit to cost about the same as existing PPEs, and USAID is in talks with a manufacturing partner to be announced.

USAID is working with the CDC and DOD to test for the suit’s cooling capability and penetration testing, but user feedback was also vitally important. Initially they thought perhaps they should be developing a suit that could be work for a five- or eight-hour shift. But doctors in the field said the longest they can stand to be in the hot zone of the ETU — simply because of the emotional stress — is an hour or two.

Details of the new ebola protection suit

The Johns Hopkins suit is one of the 15 awardees of USAID’s Ebola Grand Challenge. Sponsored with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Defense Department, the challenge is just the latest in a string of grand challenges that invite the public to take part in fighting global problems and will lead to about $9 million in funding. With the fight against Ebola far from over, but recently overlooked for new news, the USAID team hopes to get the new suit in production in the next few months, and some of the design features of the PPE are already being integrated into other suits.

“Traditionally people think of government and innovation as an oxymoron, and we’re out to change that thinking,” says Ann Mei Chang, executive director of USAID’s Global Development Lab. Chief Innovation Officer Steven VanRoekel says putting out RFPs tended to get proposals from the same players—opening up the problem solving to the public broadens the ideas.

Just in the past few weeks, the last patient with Ebola in Liberia was sent home and schools have reopened. “But it’s not done until we reach zero in all affected countries,” Taylor says. “The road to zero can be a long and bumpy one.”

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.