Open Innovation Search for Novel Malaria Solutions
A novel diagnostic test for the early detection of malaria. Salva can help identify individuals with subclinical infections of the malarial parasite, thereby reducing the size of the infectious reservoir.
Erada, South Africa
Malaria is a life-threatening mosquito-borne infectious disease. According to the World Health Organization, there were an estimated 228 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2018. African regions are disproportionately affected the most, with 93% of malaria cases and 94% of malaria deaths, in 2018.
Efforts to eradicate malaria continue apace in many university labs and research institutes across the globe. One ambitious project that could help to end the disease is Salva, a saliva-based rapid diagnostic test that won the Africa Challenge, part of the Hello Tomorrow Challenge. This global open innovation initiative allows the Hello Tomorrow organization to find and partner with entrepreneurs at a very early-stage who are developing new scientific and technological solutions.
The saliva test lays claim to being the first in the world to detect the plasmodium parasite that causes malaria through a saliva sample. This non-invasive technology detects the sexual stage Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes. These are sexual precursor cells that facilitate the transmission of the malaria parasite from the mammalian host to the mosquito. They are crucial for successful human-mosquito-human transmission of the malaria parasite.
Salva tests for the presence of the gametocytes by using high-affinity antibodies to a parasite protein abundant in the saliva of infected but asymptomatic individuals. It can identify the presence of the disease with low concentrations of the parasite. Early detection means early treatment and no malaria.
The results come through in just 20 minutes and mean that blood samples don't need to be taken and sent away for analysis. The diagnostic device can easily be transported to schools, hospitals and other community buildings and can be used by teachers and parents.
Open Innovation Success
The company behind the innovation is South Africa-based Erada, and they beat 5,000 applicants from across Africa to pick up a 3,000 EUR funding prize. Erada founder Dr. Benji Pretorius, who once contracted malaria, said:
"As someone who has survived malaria myself, it gives me great pride to be involved in the fight to make the world malaria-free; this funding is a great stride forward and will be essential for us to take SALVA! 's development one step further."
The next stage for Erada after winning the Africa leg of the open innovation competition is to travel to Paris to compete for 100,000 EUR funding, the Hello Tomorrow Challenge's top prize.
Erada's success highlights some of the benefits of open innovation challenges, which are not just enjoyed by more prominent companies. They include:
• Tapping into the power of co-creation.
• Giving smaller entities exposure to bigger audiences of potential investors and
• Funding to get new ideas off the ground.
• Large companies effectively extend their R&D departments by engaging with
• Larger enterprises tend to be bureaucratic organizations slowed down by
processes. An open innovation partnership with a smaller, more agile company can
speed up timescales.
Erada is anticipating releasing its innovative malaria diagnostic kit commercially within the next two to three years.
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