WORLD – The healthcare industry is going the digital way, as more tech startups are springing up with healthcare related innovations that utilize AI to tackle the worlds key healthcare problems, from solving eradicating tropical diseases to enhancing mental health.
In the recently concluded XPrice challenge organized by the tech giant IBM Watson, various startups battled it out for prize money worth US$5M through innovations that will solve humanity’s grand challenges using AI.
ZzappMalaria and Aifred Health were among the startups within the healthcare scope that emerged winners from a pool of startups within the tech flooded competition.
ZzappMalaria, an Israeli startup that uses artificial intelligence and other tech tools to wipe out malaria, took the top prize in IBM Watson’s AI competition, nabbing US$3 million to expand its operations as Aifred Health, a digital health company focused on clinical decision support in mental health, took second place in the AI competition, banking US$1 million.
Airfred Health uses AI to learn from thousands of patients to help tailor treatment, reducing the time it takes for a patient to reach remission.
Being the first of its kind, the company is now headed for the clinical trials of this technology as they hope and anticipate to have their product utilized by clinicians to help and support their patients.
ZzappMalaria targets breeding sites of mosquitoes that carry malaria parasites using their own AI-powered, map-based app that helps predict where stagnant rain water will occur hence prompting field workers fumigate the area.
The startup has focused its anti-malaria operations in Africa, specifically in Ghana, Zanzibar, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Its app was designed specifically to address local needs in sub-Saharan Africa because it has a low battery consumption, does not require continuous internet connectivity and works well even on simple phones.
Malaria kills more than 400,000 people yearly, most of whom are children under the age of five though the disease has been eliminated from many countries through large-scale operations that targeted the water bodies in which the malaria-bearing mosquitoes breed.
However, similar operations have failed in several African countries due to planning and operational complexities stemming from dispersed geography and tropical climate, according to the company.
Malaria killed six times more people than COVID-19 last year in Africa, according to Houri-Yafin the company founder.
The US$3 million in funding from the IBM Watson AI XPrize competition will enable ZzappMalaria to launch malaria elimination operations in three more countries in the next five years, he said.
The company has set a goal of completely eliminating malaria in São Tomé and Príncipe, an African island nation close to the equator, in the next two years.