Mumbai, February 2023.
India Health Fund (IHF), a Tata Trusts initiative focused on improving health outcomes in infectious diseases, today announced funding for two pioneering platform tools that can be used for diagnosis of multiple diseases. Developed by Ameliorate Biotech Pvt. Ltd. and Medprime Technologies respectively, the innovations, a fever panel to detect dengue, chikungunya, and malaria; and a microscope-agnostic AI-enabled diagnosis software that is applicable across diseases.
Mosquito-borne diseases are rampant in India with an observed rise in dengue and chikungunya cases between 2015 and 2021. While malaria prevalence has reduced over the last 20 years, absolute numbers stand high.These illnesses often present similar symptoms at an early stage, which can lead to a misdiagnosis or even delayed diagnosis. Thus, there is an immediate need for a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) that is real-time, easy-to-use, affordable, user-friendly and equipment free. Similarly, an algorithm that can swiftly and accurately diagnose diseases like malaria without the subjectivity that comes due to variation in skills and training of microscopists is invaluable to remote communities.Microscopy as a diagnostic tool for malaria has evolved very little since its first use.
An accurate, multiplexed RDT for dengue, chikungunya and malaria (with malaria falciparum and vivax differentiation), the simple 15-min test uses a single test kit and a single blood sample and can be easily used by minimally trained workforce at primary level.The process eliminates the need of serum/plasma samples, is instantaneous, doesn’t need cold chain facility/ biosafety lab; ensures minimal medical waste generation. The 12-month funding from IHF will enable prospective, multicentric performance and cost-effectiveness evaluation of the RDT, to be made available at a discounted price of Rs 200/pc to the public health system for government procurements. Thisis far less than existing fever panel priced at Rs. 3000-4000.
Dr Rashbehari Tunga, Managing Director and Founder, Ameliorate Biotech Pvt. Ltd. said, “Ameliorate has a game-changing solution at hand that can help individuals in the remotest corners differentiate quickly between fever illnesses and seek appropriate treatment”.Dr. Binita Shrivastava Tunga, Director and Co – founder, Ameliorate,added“Support and funding from India Health Fund will provide the much-needed impetus for this innovation to reach the underserved.”
An artificial intelligence-powered software for faster, more cost-effective and more accurate microscopy for disease diagnosis deploys an algorithm, locally trained by machine learning, which automatically detects, identifies and differentiates between malarial parasites (P. falciparum and P. vivax). This tool will be microscope, disease (communicable and non-communicable) and sample (blood, urine, stool, pus) agnostic and will slash- by third- the time taken for slide viewing, image processing and result reporting. The algorithm will also overcome the need for trained manpower and will prove important for training and research for medical, paramedical and allied health staff that need remote collaboration and interoperability. IHF’s 24-month support to Medprime will enable the development and pilot testing of this AI/Machine Learning (ML)-led multiplex diagnosis software.
Samrat, CEO, Medprime Technologies added, “AI is reshaping our world. Our digital solution, backed by India Health Fund, is future-ready and will tap into the power of artificial intelligence to ensure that malaria and other diseases are diagnosed quickly and correctly, even in the most distant corners of the country, and offer an easy-to-use open design remote tool for research, training and education purposes, which is another pressing need.”
Madhav Joshi, CEO, India Health Fund said, “Empowering frontline health workers with platform tools that can test multiple diseases rapidly and accurately is bound to save lives and strengthen the national surveillance mechanism. Ameliorate’s fever panel and Medprime’s diagnostic algorithm will, through our support, be able to reach communities in most need of these advancements, working toward eliminating infectious diseases without the handicap ofspecific technology, geography and affordability”.
Gaining more from less, by using innovations that can diagnose multiple diseases, will not only increase efficiencies and save costs for the already-strained health systems but also save precious time for patients and allow for right treatment linkages to be made. The two IHF-supported “Made In India” tools hold the promise for just this.