Solution Overview

Solution Name:

Medupi by Drizzle Health, LLC

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One-line solution summary:

A low cost, hand-held, instant screening tool for TB for CCWs in LMICs towards real-time surveillance and reduction of diagnostic delays.

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Pitch your solution.

Tuberculosis (TB) is the leading infectious disease killer, after Covid-19, resulting in almost 1.6 million deaths worldwide every year. An estimated  56% of TB cases are bacteriologically confirmed, making underdiagnosis a major contributor to the ongoing TB transmission. Further, studies have shown that it can take about 4-6 weeks before patients get a TB test.

Medupi is a low cost, high performance instant screening device that can be carried around by CCWs, or be accessed at primary health centers of any kind, that instantaneously provides results to the clinician so that patients can be immediately included into TB treatment and follow-up regimes and prevent community transmission.

With instant results, our network of devices will be able to map outbreaks and 'hot' areas in real-time, leading to maximum efficiency in efforts and aid to already overburdened government TB programs. Control of local outbreaks will dramatically reduce recurring cycles of community transmission.

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What specific problem are you solving?

Tuberculosis(TB) is the leading infectious disease killer, after Covid-19, resulting in almost 1.6 million deaths worldwide every year. The identification of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis is essential in diagnosing TB. An estimated only 56% of TB cases are bacteriologically confirmed, making underdiagnosis a major contributor to the ongoing TB transmission. Further, studies have shown that it can take about 4-6 weeks before patients get a TB test. 

Essentially, a large number of patients go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for long periods, during which they spread the disease in their family, communities, and those they come in contact with. 

In recent years, highly sensitive NAAT based tests have been introduced in high burden countries. However, these machines, due to their costs and maintenance, are generally centralized. With each test costing about $10-15, and unequal access amongst clinicians within cities, most clinicians clinically diagnose TB, often with CXRs and results of Sputum Smear Microscopy(SSM), which is only about 55% sensitive. In India, notifications fell back to 2017 levels after Covid-19, where there are over 20,000 SSM centers and only 3000 NAAT machines.

Medupi focuses on 2 parts of this problem - 

(1) Low total time for the patient to get diagnosed (not just the testing tim

(2) Low cost to find and test each patient.

 

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What is your solution?

Medupi is a 2 part system that utilizes sputum as the sample collected in a cartridge and an electro-optical reader system for detection.

The cartridge contains a highly specific surface that specifically captures mycobacteria from samples in contact. The workflow is as follows:

1. CCWs visit vulnerable populations (including slums, migrant workers, etc.) and collect sputum samples from presumptive patients in sputum cups. A liquefaction buffer is introduced into these cups and left to incubate for 10 minutes while the CCW fills out details for the group of patients.

2. Using a disposable pipette dropper, the CCW transfers a sample into the cartridge's reservoir. The cartridge includes a syringe that pulls the sample from the reservoir, onto the surface. The pipette and syringe are disposed into a biosafety bag.

3. The cartridge is then inserted into the Medupi reader, where the chip is read using optical and electrical signals, specific to mycobacteria. Due to the high specificity of the surface, and the epidemiological setting, very low concentrations (i.e. early stage and HIV patients) can be detected. Results return within a minute.

4. Cartridge is discarded into biosafety bag.

5. Medupi device instantly uploads numbers into a real-time map via internet.

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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Our Team has established partnerships in India, which has the highest TB burden in the world. Apart from routine patients visiting primary health care clinics (including lower and middle income patients in rural, peri-urban and urban areas), we will focus on piggybacking on the government's existing active case finding efforts through CCWs, as well as CCWs in the field for routine screening of other diseases. Vulnerable and neglected populations include migrant workers, people living in slums, prisoners, HIV infected patients, contacts of diagnosed TB patients in Tier - 2, and Tier - 3 cities, as well as villages.

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Equip last-mile primary healthcare providers with the necessary tools and knowledge to detect disease outbreaks quickly and respond to them effectively.
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Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.

Our solution focuses on the dimensions of equipping last mile primary health providers with tools to not only detect TB and follow-up presumptive populations as leg workers following orders, but also directly strengthening TB surveillance timely, to be able to control local outbreaks.

We feel that LMIC health systems are unique and cannot copy western models of care in sustainable ways - (National economics bounding public healthcare expenditure, reliance on aid, patient economics and behavior and pure environmental costs of replication of western models). 

CCWs are the core foundation of LMIC healthcare systems. Our devices are meant to empower CCWs.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Baltimore, MD, USA
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Prototype: A venture or organization building and testing its product, service, or business model.
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Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.

We already have an IRB study in place (delayed due to Covid-19) to study the efficacy of part of the Medupi system in India. This is expected to be completed before September.

The Medupi cartridge was designed keeping current TB pathways followed around the world in mind, and thus, also works with sputum smear microscopy (SSM). It was presented to the Indian Council of Medical Research as well as State Health departments who keenly appreciated the lab performance and invited the team to conduct studies at their sites, before pilots.

The Medupi reader has been tested for proof of concept in the lab (with contrived samples), and is currently undergoing more rigorous testing, as well as human centered industrial design. 

The Medupi cartridge has been thoroughly tested in the lab. An early version of the technology was tested in Uganda, where it demonstrated 93% sensitivity when used with SSM. 

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Digvijay Singh

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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new technology
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What makes your solution innovative?

Behavioral insights:

1. Time for patients to get into the TB treatment system - This takes 4-6 weeks. Most products are lab based and thus do not focus on this part.

2. Cost for each test - Cost per test needs to be low enough so that it is realistic for state and central governments to not just test, but over test over long periods.

3. Existing infrastructure (including personnel who've already been trained) - Governments invest in infrastructure over decades. Faster and wider deployment requires fitting into existing infrastructure.

4. Patients habits (delay in going to doctor, going to small facilities first) - Are not going to change. Non urban patients will not suddenly change the way they access healthcare and go to central facilities or bear severe symptoms waiting for test results, or not be satisfied with alleviated symptoms (antibiotics prescribed at primary centers). Instant enrollment is key.

Technical insights:

1. Sample quality enhancement without additional steps to increase performance of existing tests is an underexploited part of the diagnostic pathway. Medupi cartridge concentrates the sample, enabling low limits of detection.

2. Specificity of SSM comes from differential staining (enough contrast) and technician's knowledge. Contrast can come from selective concentration and knowledge from peak analysis.

Our surveillance system will become stronger as more states, join the network. We anticipate that since our surveillance system will provide direct visibility to donors in the space, state governments are unlikely to forgo, and will enroll their state's CCWs in the program.

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Biotechnology / Bioengineering
  • Materials Science
  • Software and Mobile Applications
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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Rural
  • Peri-Urban
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Middle-Income
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 10. Reduced Inequality
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In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • India
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How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

We currently serve zero people since we're in the testing phase. 

Within the next year, as part of clinical studies, we will be able to test 100-1000 patients using either the complete system or part of it.

Full development is expected to finish in the first quarter of 2022. Within the next 4 years, targeting the states of Rajasthan and UP in India, where the team met with health officials who expressed interest, we anticipate to affect 10-30 million screenings each year beginning 2023.

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How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

Current progress is being measured on the basis of lab results and product development timeline.

Once deployed, performance will be measured indirectly, yearly from TB incidence and notifications from India's Annual TB report for 2023, 2024 and so on, in accordance with SDG 3 indicators (October reports).

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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models

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How many people work on your solution team?

2 Full-time members

1 Contractor

1 Intern

3 Scientific advisors

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How long have you been working on your solution?

2 years

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How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

The team has 2 full time members, Bonolo and Digvijay.

Bonolo has a background in biomedical and electrical engineering. Digvijay has a background in materials science and industrial design. They attended  the bioengineering program (CBID) at Johns Hopkins for their masters, as part of which they've conducted first hand observations and interviews in Brazil, South Africa, US and India. Coming from countries with very high TB populations, both Bonolo and Digvijay have seen first hand, the conditions of patients as well as the healthcare systems serving them. Despite carrying masters debts, they decided to work together on creating impact for TB stricken populations.

The team has 3 scientific advisors,

1. Yukari Manabe, MD - An infectious disease expert with over 20 years of TB experience

2. Soumyadipta Acharya, MD, PhD - A global health and medical device innovation expert

3. Hai-Quan Mao, PhD - A nanotechnology expert with over 20 patents 

The team has collected and assimilated over 100 interviews with stakeholders at various levels over the last 2 years and has incorporated inputs in design, strategy and impact of the products.

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What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership team?

As a team, we firmly believe in acknowledging our differences in race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, ancestry, and national or ethnic origin. It is only by acknowledging what makes us different, that we are able to truly embrace and celebrate our diversity. These differences govern how we uniquely experience the world and our decisions on when/how to access healthcare, the type of diseases endemic in our communities, medications available etc. and how we choose exercise our agency. 

Our goal is to fight TB and the destruction it is causing millions of lives around the globe each year. We understand that this is a fight where we'd need all the help we can get and need to rely on the best of each other.

The team's co-founders have differing backgrounds, Bonolo is South African and named the product Medupi, a Sepedi word that means quiet rain. Digvijay is an Indian national, hailing from the national capital region. 

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Your Business Model & Partnerships

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Government (B2G)
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Partnership & Prize Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to Solve?

We're applying to Solve to access funding and networks.

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development, etc.)
  • Financial (e.g. improving accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Legal or Regulatory Matters
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)
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Please explain in more detail here.

We're looking to fundraise to fuel R&D activities, finish clinical studies and cross the ICMR approval barrier in India over the next 12-18 months. 

We're looking to hire a full time engineer (Optics, electronics), part time QMS and manufacturing personnel. We would need help finding talent, as well as housekeeping and HR related activities.

We anticipate engaging a regulatory consultant (already identified) in Q2 2022.


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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Prize to advance your solution?

There are about 10,000 cases of TB in the US each year. These disproportionately affect the homeless and immigrants. 

Further, the US receives over 75 million visitors each year (pre-covid19). Over 40 million Americans visit overseas. With over 1/4th of the world population carrying latent TB infection, the risk of TB exposure to American citizens from international travel is significant. However, currently no instant TB screening test exist that do not require significant management and storage. With the help of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Prize, we will be able to further the development of the test, as well as explore testing opportunities with airport authorities. This will also go a long way towards pursuing FDA submissions. 

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Andan Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Innovation for Women Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The AI for Humanity Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The AI for Humanity Prize to advance your solution?

The AI for Humanity prize will be used for the development of the Medupi reader - The reader uses optical signals that're analysed and matched with TB specific data. In the immediate future, we will develop a model that helps parse through noise, and low signal. However, in the coming years, we will look to leverage our platform to test for other sputum (or urine) sample based disease detection. 

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Global Fund Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes

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Solution Team

 
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