Recognition09.01.2019

Malaria project awarded innovation prize


The Hemolytics malaria diagnosis project supported by the NCCR Bio-Inspired Materials has taken third prize at the Ypsomed Innovation Fund’s Innovation Award for research, development and technology transfer. Dr. Jonas Pollard, Dr. Omar Rifiae Graham, Samuel Raccio, and NCCR Principal Investigator Professor Nico Bruns were awarded CHF 20'000 towards further development of their new detection technique.

The Hemolytics team, all members of Bruns’ group at the Adolphe Merkle Institute (University of Fribourg), is currently establishing a low-cost diagnostic method for malaria. This new tool, which relies on the detection of a specific biomarker in the bloodstream at extremely small concentrations, could lead to fewer false-positives, subsequently improve treatment protocols for patients, and help reduce healthcare costs, but also fill a market niche in the diagnostic sector. The test is specifically designed to discover asymptomatic carriers at risk of transmitting the disease, who could hinder complete eradication of malaria.

“It is a huge satisfaction for the team. This prize recognizes the value of our work so far, but it also highlights the potential of our tool,” said project leader Jonas Pollard. In awarding the prize to the Hemolytics, the jury notably highlighted its humanitarian goal, with a planned application in developing countries.  

The researchers have previously obtained funding from different sources, including a Bridge grant from Innosuisse and the Swiss National Science Foundation, and a grant from the Gebert Rüf Foundation. Initial testing has also taken place in Brazil.

The Ypsomed Innovation Fund aims to promote innovative activities in the central part of Switzerland and supports projects for independent funding of young startups and existing businesses. The Innovation Award is worth a total of CHF 100,000.

Ypsomed press release (German) here.