RMIT researchers are part of a global push to eradicate malaria, thanks to support from the Gates Foundation.
We thank the Gates Foundation for their confidence in this project, and for giving us the funding to pursue the project, which has been highly successful."
“The malaria parasite has been killing children and sapping the strength of whole populations for tens of thousands of years," Bill Gates recently told Reuters. "Now we can chart a course to end it."
Bill and Melinda Gates have pledged to give away the majority of their Microsoft fortune to charitable causes through their Foundation during their lifetime, and have urged other billionaires to do the same.
One of their priorities is eradicating malaria, which kills more than 650,000 people in developing nations each year. So far, the Foundation has donated $750 million towards ending malaria and other diseases.
One of the first steps is finding low cost, fast and transportable diagnostic tools – fast diagnosis means more effective treatment.
That’s where RMIT researcher Professor Vipul Bansal is making a difference, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation.
Professor Bansal, a specialist in bio-nanotechnology, led a team including Dr Selvakannan Periasamy and Dr Hemraj Chhipa, that developed a biosensor patch which can be applied to the skin. When a laser shines on the patch, it indicates if the patient has malaria within 30 seconds.
“In African countries you don’t necessarily have electricity or other resources, so you need a diagnostic tool that can be operated with a battery, that is low cost, painless, and is easy to use,“ says Professor Bansal.
Malaria has many similar symptoms to other infectious diseases like typhoid, so fast and accurate diagnosis ensures the patient receives the right treatment. The patch, which will cost around 10 cents per unit, could also be used to diagnose other diseases.
Professor Bansal and his team are currently seeking further funding to produce the biosensor commercially, and to apply same technology to identify food spoilage bacteria in the Australian dairy industry.
“We thank the Gates Foundation for their confidence in this project, and for giving us the funding to pursue the project, which has been highly successful,“ says Professor Bansal.
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