Tel Aviv, Israel – ZzappMalaria, the developer of a mobile-app and online system that helps eliminate malaria, has been chosen as one of only three finalists from 10,000 interested teams in the IBM Watson XPRIZE “AI for Good’’ challenge. ZzappMalaria has already received funding to continue its global fight against malaria, including a large-scale operation in Ghana and an ambitious plan to eliminate malaria from an island country, and will now compete for the $2.5M grand prize. If selected, the company will use the funds to support an extension of its operations worldwide.
Nearly half the world’s population lives in areas at risk of malaria transmission. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria killed more than 400,000 people in 2019, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, and of those deaths, 67 percent were children under 5-years-old. Despite global containment efforts and technological advancement, the Malaria parasite is still very much a threat and will continue to be until containment operations are managed efficiently and effectively. ZzappMalaria’s app manages malaria elimination operations, and makes malaria eradication possible on a global scale.
ZzappMalaria has developed an end-to-end solution that targets malaria-bearing mosquitos to ultimately eliminate the disease. The mobile app harnesses a predictive algorithm that processes satellite imagery, climate, and topography data to tailor optimal malaria-elimination interventions for given locations and ensures their thorough execution. The company leverages AI and machine learning to continuously improve its operations, recently collaborating with IBM on a system which predicts the impact of weather on mosquito populations. ZzappMalaria’s technology is adapted to work in areas without internet connectivity, and on low-cost phones common in developing nations.
To date, ZzappMalaria’s pilot engagements currently protect over 300,000 people from contracting Malaria.
“Malaria should be eliminated, not just controlled, and the main impediment lies in operations,” explained ZzappMalaria’s CEO, Arnon Houri-Yafin. “AI is a great tool for increasing the efficiency of operational management, so we can use it here to solve these problems. It’s a combination of AI and old-fashioned muddied boots, and we’re very excited to receive such an important recognition from XPRIZE and IBM Watson.”
ZzappMalaria is a spin-off of Israeli startup Sight Diagnostics, for which Arnon Houri-Yafin headed research projects and was an early team member. Arnon and his team helped develop Sight’s first product, Parasight, which used AI to diagnose malaria in minutes. His experience in building Parasight laid the foundation for the development of Zzapp’s unique AI approach.
“Since helping us launch Parasight nearly a decade ago, Arnon was inspired to create Zzapp with the goal of ultimately eradicating the disease through the use of AI,” said Yossi Pollak, CEO and co-founder of Sight Diagnostics. “Sight shares Zzapp’s vision to improve our global public health and continues to invest in Zzapp’s operation by providing financial, R&D, and field support. This recognition from IBM Watson is well-deserved and we look forward to continuing to support the team’s life-saving work.”
“It simplifies our work considerably,” says Dr. Abebe Asale from ICIPE (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology), a leading research institution in the field of malaria. “Despite the technology’s sophistication, the app and the dashboard are very intuitive and user-friendly. In an operation in the Amhara region in 2019, we located all of the water bodies, which is usually a great challenge. Fundamentally, the technology helped us in saving time and energy. It also helped us in prioritizing severely affected villages.”
XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. Active competitions include the $20 Million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, $10 Million XPRIZE Rainforest, $10 Million ANA Avatar XPRIZE, $6 Million XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing, the $5 Million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, $5 Million XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling, and $500K Pandemic Response Challenge. For more information, visit xprize.org.
ZzappMalaria was born out of Sight Diagnostics in 2017 with the aim of eradicating malaria worldwide. It developed a system for planning, executing, and monitoring of large-scale and cost-effective malaria elimination campaigns. ZzappMalaria’s solution focuses on larviciding – thorough treatment of stagnant water bodies in which mosquitoes breed. Its algorithm tailors optimal and localized malaria elimination strategies, and its mobile app allocates assignments to workers, guides them in the field, and enables them to easily upload data to a designated dashboard. ZzappMalaria’s machine learning capabilities continuously improve the system’s efficacy from one operation to the next. The project has won several grants, among them from the Gates Foundation and the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC), and has been conducting anti-malaria operations in Ghana, Zanzibar, Kenya and Ethiopia. Learn more at zzappmalaria.com.
About Sight Diagnostics
Founded in 2011, Sight Diagnostics aims to transform health systems and patient outcomes through accurate and pain-free blood diagnostic testing. Sight’s technology, developed over almost a decade of research, represents breakthrough innovations in diagnostic methodology. Sight’s latest blood analyzer, Sight OLO, performs a Complete Blood Count, the most commonly ordered blood test, in minutes. It’s compact: designed to be used in a variety of settings. Sight OLO creates a digital version of a blood sample by capturing more than 1,000 highly detailed images from just two drops of blood obtained from a finger prick or venous sample. These images are then interpreted by proprietary and fully automated AI algorithms. Sight’s first product, Parasight, has been used to detect malaria in almost 1 million tests across 24 countries. The company has rapidly growing offices in the UK, the US and Israel. Learn more at www.SightDX.com.