The Business of Global Health No. 22

Get Smart  As reported in a story in FierceMedicalDevices, researchers led by Samuel Sia of Columbia University published results from a field study of a prototype point-of-care diagnostic device for HIV and syphilis infections that plugs into a smart phone. The device is about the size of a deck of cards, uses disposable plastic cassettes preloaded with reagents, and analyzes blood from a single finger prick. The results are displayed on a smart phone or iPod screen that also serves as a power source. In the study, Laksanasopin et al. 2015, the device correctly identified infections in 96 patients in Rwanda 90-100% of the time with a specificity of 79% to 100%, and results were provided in 15 minutes. In a story by Columbia University, Prof. Sia estimated the device can be manufactured for $34 and said “We are really excited about the next steps in bringing this product to the market in developing countries and we are equally excited about exploring how this technology can benefit patients and consumers back home.”

Patient Patients  Containment of the Ebola outbreak will be enhanced by methods to diagnosis and monitor suspected cases, to implement treatment sooner and reduce transmission. The Scripps Translational Science Institute recently announced it had received a grant from the Fighting Ebola program of USAID to develop such a mobile system (press release in FierceMedicalDevices). As described in a FierceMedicalDevices story, the system will use “Band Aid-type” sensors to monitor an individual’s vital signs and the data will be transmitted through two wireless monitors to a laptop-based analysis program. Then a “personalized physiology analytics” platform will use advanced machine learning algorithms to detect subtle changes in the individual’s physiology, changes that indicate an advancing infection. Technology for the system will be provided by three collaborating companies. No estimate for the time to a prototype was given.

Needless Needles  Vaxxas, a Cambridge-MA start-up with global ambitions, closed a second tranche of funding recently, a $20 million round that brought its total VC input to $33 million (press release in FierceVaccines). Vaxxas is developing a needle-free vaccination device called a NanopatchÔ, an ultra-high density array of projections that are dry-coated with vaccine which is quickly and painlessly delivered just below the skin. The system offers advantages in administration, packaging, and transport (no refrigeration needed). The company has a collaboration with Merck and last fall received funding from WHO to conduct preclinical studies on a version to administer a polio vaccine. For background, see my post, “Vax Patch”.

Eyes on the Prize  According to its website, ayzh (pronounced “eyes”) is a “for-profit social venture providing health and livelihood solutions to impoverished women worldwide through development of low-cost, appropriate technology designed to meet the unique needs of women in resource-poor settings.” The company’s lead product is a four-piece clean birth kit to enable safer and healthier births in low-resource hospital settings (see PATH one-pager). According to an MIT story, the kit has a retail price of about $2 and has been used in more than 100,000 births in countries including Afghanistan, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda. The company is registered in both India, where it does its manufacturing and is focusing B2B sales, and the US, where it has a business office in Ft. Collins, CO.

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