The Grand Challenges is an attempt to bring science, technology and innovation to the field of development, lowering the cost of helping the world's poor and, in the process, saving lives, USAID administrator Shah said.
Seventy-seven finalists were selected from the more than 600 applications that poured in from around the world, a testament to the "extent of the creativity and science and potential that's out there," Shah said.
"Especially in these very difficult economic times ... coming up with more innovative, more local and sustainable ways to make it cheaper and easier to help mothers survive child birth and help children survive the first 48 hours of life is what this program is all about."
The awardees were named as Congress announced proposed budget cuts that would slash $715 million from U.S. foreign aid, threatening global health programs that address HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and childhood diseases.
ABC News' Award Winners
The winners of a maternal health challenge launched by ABC News in partnership with Duke Global Health Institute and the Lemelson Foundation were also invited to participate in events throughout the week.
A team of recent graduates from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, led by Sean Monagle, designed a small pen that can test for protein in the urine of a pregnant woman, a sign of pre-eclampsia. Eclampsia is responsible for more than one in 10 maternal deaths around the world and tests can cost upwards of a dollar.
While inexpensive by U.S. standards, existing prices are unaffordable for many developing countries. The pen test will cost less than half a cent.
Saving Lives at Birth is a joint venture of the USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grand Challenges Canada and the World Bank.