The Israeli start-up company Zzapp-Malaria, which has developed an AI-based platform for locating high-risk areas for malaria outbreaks based on satellite images and data from other sources, aims to demonstrate the technology it has developed to help eradicate malaria.
The company, which recently won first place in the prestigious international competition of Xprize sponsored by IBM Watson, intends to dedicate the prize money, about $ 3 million, to carry out a targeted eradication campaign of malaria in one of the African countries
In an interview with Techtime, the company’s founder and CEO, Arnon Khoury-Yafin, explained that the success of such an operation could change the way the fight against the plague is been executed. ” For several years now, the malaria morbidity curve has been on the plain, not rising but also not falling. We want to defeat the disease and show that it can be eradicated using the right means. That is why we want to focus on one country and show that it is possible, similar to the way Israel was a pilot for the Pfizer company that demonstrated the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines. ”
To eradicate the disease ‘the good old way’
Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes, one of the deadliest diseases known to mankind. About half of the world’s population lives in areas at risk of contracting malaria, of which hundreds of millions are infected and sick, and more than 400,000 people die from it each year – most of them children under the age of 5. Pregnant women are another group at particular risk. About 95% of malaria deaths occur in Africa.
However, malaria can be eradicated by treating the water sources in which mosquitoes breed – many countries have done so, and the pioneers in Israel were among the first to do so. In tropical Africa, however, these operations are difficult to plan, manage and monitor.
Zazapp Malaria has set itself the goal of enabling such eradication operations. The technology is based on artificial intelligence that Zzapp has developed using satellite images alongside rainfall and topography data to map districts, villages, and water sources. For each village, the system simulates thousands of possible action strategies and recommends the best. The app has been used in 6 African countries and has been shown to increase the number of water resources treated, save time, and significantly improve operations effectiveness.
The company is soon expected to publish the results of a pilot it conducted in Ghana. The company’s flagship project is a planned operation in the island state of Sao Tome and Principe off the west coast of Africa, where the ambitious goal is the complete eradication of malaria in less than a year. The company collaborates with the International Health Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, research bodies, associations, and local government bodies.
Zzapp, which was established in 2017, is a subsidiary of Sight Diagnostics. Yafin-Khoury says that the vision behind the establishment of Zazapp was born during his work at Sight. “Sight developed tests to diagnose malaria. I witnessed the great suffering of malaria patients. I came to the company’s board and asked to set up a company that would focus on eradicating the disease, and they gave me their blessing.”
[Pictured above: Zzapp Malaria Team]