For the second episode in our high tech for development episode, I’m speaking to Eddy Agbo of Fyodor Biotech. We speak about early diagnostic methods that are changing the game for global health and the opportunities these represent for social enterprise. Eddy is the CEO of Fyodor Biotech, he’s a PHD from Utrecht University in the Netherlands in molecular genetics and has a post-doctoral fellowship in medicine and infectious diseases at John Hopkins. Fyodor Biotech is building a portfolio of non-invasive fever diagnostic products for emerging markets, of which one, they’re now commercialising, is the Urine Malaria Test (UMT) – a test for malaria that tells within 25minutes if a fever is malaria, using only a few drops of urine.
On this episode you’ll learn:
- Malaria diagnosis is a field that hadn’t evolved for over a hundred years until the 1970s, and then again today. So the time to big disruption has reduced from 100 years to 40. The big innovation has been to remove the guess work in whether someone has malaria or not.
- The UMT product took 8 years to get to market, and has been sold commercially now for two years in Nigeria and Liberia only. Their strategy is to target the private healthcare sector first.
- They started developing the product in the market crash of 2008 so funding was a challenge, so they had to bootstrap and form strategic partnerships.
- They competed for public grant funding in the life sciences sector from the US or British governments.
- They were able to raise equity funding from different funders during the development stage. When the technology was developed and in people’s hands, it made a difference to their funding, and they received much more interest from investors.
- They’re distributing to both business and consumers. They’re working with major pharmaceutical distributors, but are also allowing customers to purchase directly from them.
- They have distribution partnerships with a range of suppliers, mostly of the online marketing kind.
- They went to the Nigerian market first, because of the size of that market, because they wanted to get to scale in a market where the impact could be felt and where they could eventually achieve a lower price point for the public sector. And Nigeria has a large private health sector which is key to their growth strategy.
- Their partnership with John Hopkins was due to a key part of the technology they licensed from them. They have a global, exclusive license from them, which was critical because of the credibility it has brought and the resources they’ve drawn on to help them succeed.
- They do their early stage research in the US and later stage development in the target market. This meant bringing blood and urine samples into the US, and the red tape was such a challenge. But it was something John Hopkins was able to help with, since they had extensive experience with this.
- John Hopkins also provided some crucial early introductions that helped with funding and access to important resources in the product development.
- They implemented a major clinical trial (2000 participants) that built compelling evidence that helped with investor funding.
- It was published in leading journals (see link below)
- Functionality testing had to show that a certain skilled level of operator can do the tests, and that an acceptable product shelf life could be.
- Eddy’s vision is to build a portfolio of products that could help populations in the developing world with a fever, to help in the initial diagnostic stages, to know what has caused the fever and remove the presumptive diagnostic process in patient care.
Links to resources
- Clinical Performance Evaluation of Fyodor Urine Malaria Test (UMT)
- Journal in Journal of Clinical Microbiology: Multicenter Pivotal Clinical Trial of Urine Malaria Test for Rapid Diagnosis of Plasmodium falciparum Malaria
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