Matibabu, a device which tests for malaria has won the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.
Matibabu is a portable parasite based hardware device that uses the principles of light scattering and magnetism to detect malaria.
Progress of Matibabu
Since inception, Matibabu has undergone several iterations to better refine the product towards developing a market-ready version.
In the first generation of prototyping, we were trying to understand how light can easily penetrate red blood cells but there was a lot of external interference which led us to our second prototype where we addressed the issue of external interference but there were no conclusive results.
We then moved onto the third generational prototype where we re-engineered the pulse oximeter because we found out that oxygen as a parameter promotes liver-stage malaria infection but the efficiency levels & more so sensitivity was at 60% but the specificity was still low.
The team further developed an optic magnetic device that encompassed all the techniques of electrical impedance, magnetism & light so as to achieve the desired test accuracy based on the parameters that were considered. A test accuracy of over 70% was obtained from different sample tests and, transitioned to device development of the hybrid of the Magnetic-Optic Technology and Electro-Impedance Technology.
Our next step is to determine the validity and reliability of the Matibabu device compared with the gold standard microscopy and RDT by conducting field-tests with malaria patients in selected health facilities in order to obtain information that will be used to improve the device, and eventually roll it out to the market.
Along the way, Matibabu has managed to get a couple of partnerships that has seen it through all these years. Cutting through, we have so far
The year was 2013 when the world was first treated to an experimental design of the non-invasive diagnosis for Malaria. At the then National finals of the Microsoft ImagineCup, Matibabu emerged the winner of the local edition, 2013 further proceeding to the World Finals in Russia where we were announced the UN Empowerment Award winners.
ResilientAfrica Network, a USAID funded partnership of 18 universities in Africa was making it’s entry into Uganda where Matibabu was selected among the first startups to be incubated.
To us, this partnership created a strategic platform for the team, managed to get introductions to new partnerships and heavily supported our development process.
In 2016, we were honored to be the first African startup to make it to the Merck Accelerator.
This helped us build capacity within the team to know more about structuring a company, legal processes of medical devices and gave the team access to the labs to do more trials within malaria experts.
From a technical view, we managed to get mentors that helped us take big strides towards the new developments. However, we are still in touch with these mentors pushing to get the product to the market.
In the same year, Matibabu entered into a partnership with Villgro Kenya which is heavily focused on business development and investment readiness.
This has also helped us tap into Villgro’s networks where we have managed to a few technical experts and VC’s as we investigate possible partnerships
Last year, we were honored with the Aspirin Social Innovation Award by Bayer Foundation, an award that recognizes the most powerful social change-makers in the world, people with new answers for the challenges of society in areas connected to health and nutrition with international scope.
After 6 months with the Royal Academy of Engineering, the team at Matibabu has been deeply immersed in training on business development and iterations fo the business plan.
The team has been able to make connections with organizations willing to invest as well as know more about the device to push the company forward.
We are incredibly honored to win the Africa Prize. it’s such a big achievement for us, because it means that we can better manage production in order to scale clinical trials and prove ourselves to regulators. The recognition will help us open up partnership opportunities which is what we need most at the moment
To sum it up, it has been a learning experience for the team. Realistically, the team has had enough insights into innovation and collaboration for early stage medical device development for-example the medical translational research of how to move from the biomaterials laboratory to the preclinical facilities kind of setting. This highly involves accreditation of R&D processes and facilities which is important with certifications such as ISO (International Standards) for a preclinical side.