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Dutch medtech startup Momala aspires to help to cure malaria by making the diagnosis of the disease scalable via a mobile app. “Malaria is still a huge problem in many parts of the world. In 2016 there were 212 million cases of Malaria and 430.000 deaths. One of the core issues is the availability and quality of diagnostics”, Bouke Broeren, founder of Momala, states.
What problem do you want to solve?
“Microscopy is still the golden standard in the Malaria diagnostic market but is not scalable due to lack of trained staff. The quality and time of a diagnosis can vary a lot with every expert. This is especially a problem in low resource environments. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are a substitute for microscopy if that is not possible. RDTs are disposable tests that often can only diagnose one species of Malaria.
There are a few drawbacks with RDTs. The quality of the different brands varies a lot. They also need to be transported and often stored at specific temperatures, which brings a big logistical challenge for most areas in Africa. The diagnosis of an RDT takes around 25 minutes. There are many more problems, but these are the core issues in the diagnostic field of Malaria.”
How did you think of Momala?
“MOMALA’s algorithm is based on the Ph.D. work of Dr. Syed Saiden Abbas (Syed Saiden Abbas, Ph.D. machine learning software developer, machine learning expert and inventor of MOMALA algorithm), who is employed by Orikami. Based on his Ph.D. defense, the founders of MOMALA were inspired to bring this solution to rural Africa. We have been to Africa multiple times, to research the current situation and evaluate the various problems. During these trips we came to the conclusion that the capacity for quality diagnostics are lacking. Patients have to wait and walk hours to get a proper diagnosis.
This situation can be improved with our application. We can scale the expertise to increase the capacity for quality diagnostics. The smartphone penetration is actually pretty high in Kenya (60%). Most of the smartphones that are used are not the high-end smartphones (iPhone, Samsung) but mainly lower quality smartphones.”
So, where does Momala stand today – and where do you want to go?
“At this moment the application is finished for the first clinical trial. This will start at the end of November and will take place in 6 different locations in Kenya. This will be done in cooperation with our partner Amref health Africa. We reached the Accenture awards finals in the years 2016 and 2017 and also The Spindle best innovation awards final in 2017. However, Malaria is just the tip of the iceberg. We want to become the number one method for microscopic diagnostics in Africa.
Through the same technique of diagnosing malaria, we can add more diseases to our product portfolio. Kenya will be our first focus market, but we will expand throughout Africa. We will need a lot of sales the coming years, but also an investment to scale and research and develop the potential markets and diseases.”
Momala was one of the nominees for the Accenture Innovation Awards. Do you have any tips for a successful pitch?
“Try not to put as much information as possible in the 1 minute you have. Tell the pitch calm and with enthusiasm, so that people will understand and get excited about the product. Also, read about the jury, try to imagine yourself in their situation; what would get them enthused, what makes their hearts go faster?
Doctor examining image by Shutterstock