Bouke, how would you describe MOMALA in one tweet?
“The MOMALA-app is a smartphone application, which can produce a malaria diagnosis with high accuracy in the rural areas.”
What does MOMALA do exactly?
“You can use your phone camera to look through a normal microscope, hereafter, the app reads the blood. MOMOLA recognizes white blood cells and plasmodium parasites, which belong to the genus that causes Malaria.”
Is everyone able to do that?
“Usually, only microbiologists are capable of understanding what happens within the blood. We summarized their knowledge in the app. The algorithm can identify three of the five malaria parasites in the blood. By doing more research, we’re able to identify all malaria parasites and to diagnose accordingly.”
Who is your target audience?
“Healthcare facilities, who can’t live up to the demand of malaria tests. In contrast to the Netherlands, in Africa, especially in Kenya, only half of the clinics are publicly accessible. In those locations, especially in the rural areas, you can see endless queues. In such a clinic, an average of forty to fifty people want to get tested for Malaria daily. The problem is that there is a shortage of specialists to take the tests and evaluate the results.”
Won’t microbiologists become unnecessary?
“On the contrary, MOMALA supports microbiologists in their jobs. It enables others working in the clinic to perform diagnoses. The MOMALA-app is a supplementary tool to help as many people as possible, without any additional help of medics.”
How did MOMALA start?
“The name is short for Mobile Malaria Labs. The idea is made up by Bram den Teuling, owner of Orikami. Orikami helps to find hidden patterns in data. Bram wrote a promising algorithm which could recognize one of the malaria parasites. Unfortunately, it wasn’t applicable for customers. Orikami then asked me to continue his work. I’ve got a background in artificial intelligence and nine years of experience in entrepreneurship. It gives me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction. MOMALA can save people lives.”
How did you continue from there?
“The research continues and expands. Last year, a team of 4 data scientists worked on the algorithm for cellphones in an offline state. Since then, the algorithm can be used in places where internet connection and data storage are not available. Additionally, the algorithm is now able to recognize three of the five parasites and we’re working hard on those remaining two.”
Do you focus on Africa as a whole? Or specifically on Kenya?
“All the research and development now happens in the Netherlands but we’re actually planning to start working in Kenya. With a field study, we try figure out how well the app functions compared to the knowledge of the microbiologists. In eight weeks, we want to diagnose three thousand people approximately in six different hospitals with the MOMALA app. Based on this information we can enter the market because we know how to profile our product, know where the USP’s are set and what our business model is going to be.”