Ugandans Among Top Contenders for WHO Innovation Challenge Award
Kampala, 16th March 2019: - A Ugandan researcher, Dr Misaki Wayengera, attached to the Department of Pathology at Makerere University’s College of Health Sciences, is a top contender in the final race for the WHO Africa Innovation Challenge. This follows his trailblazing invention that diagnoses hemorrhagic fevers.
Dr Wayengera’s invention also known as Pan-Filovirus Rapid Diagnostic Test, uses a paper-strip test, like the one used in testing for pregnancy. This, however, will be used in detecting Ebola, Marburg and other hemorrhagic fevers.
Africa has had several hemorrhagic fever outbreaks especially Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) with the latest and ongoing outbreak currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo that borders Uganda to the West. Rapid diagnosis is important in informing key decisions especially interventions and measures to take in the event of a disease outbreak.
If approved by health authorities including the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, Dr Wayengera’s Pan-Filovirus Rapid Diagnostic Test will go a long way in improving rapid tests and turnaround time for results during disease outbreaks.
The WHO Innovation Challenge received a total of 2,471 applications in just four weeks from 77 countries of which 44 of those are from Africa. A panel of independent evaluators assessed and profiled the innovations in terms of the potential for making an impact as well as the ability to be scaled up in a sustainable way. More than a third of the submissions came from women.
The top 30 health-oriented innovations selected from a field of more than 2,400 entries to the first-ever WHO Innovation Challenge will be formally recognized on the opening day of the second WHO Africa Health Forum in Praia, Cabo Verde, on 26 March 2019.
“The extent of response from the Innovation Challenge affirms the enthusiasm, especially among young people, to make a difference and contribute to the health care system on the continent. Health innovators have found a new home at WHO, where their innovative ideas will be supported in partnership with our network of stakeholders,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
According to Sauti Tech, a Ugandan online news outlet focusing on technology, science and innovation, the other finalists from Uganda include Wasswa William and Denis Lee Oguzu. Mr Wasswa invented the PapES that conducts automated diagnosis and classification of cervical cancer from pap-smear images. The tool also takes into consideration the patient’s cervical cancer risk factors. A cytopathologist analyses the patient’s cervical cancer risk factors and the tool generates a result on the possibility of cervical cancer.
Mr Oguzu invented the National Ambulance Service a mobile, on-demand, hyper-local ambulance, police and fire service call and dispatch emergency system for Android and iOS. The innovation aggregates various types of private and public emergency services and allows the nearest required service to be dispatched immediately to the patient at the fastest possible time.
Among all the applications received, 639 made it through to the evaluation phase. This reflects the challenges that innovators face in making progress from ideas to development and eventual broad-based application of their solutions. Investments in the innovation ecosystem that are complemented by innovation-friendly policies remain critical for further encouraging and supporting the development of innovative solutions to solve Africa’s health challenges