Chipcare investment seeks to leverage mobile technology for HIV monitoring

Chipcare team

Chipcare team

Adrian led an investment round in Chipcare Corporation, raising over $2MM to help bring the potentially lifesaving point-of-care flow cytometry technology out of the lab at the University of Toronto and into a commercial device that can be used in the field in Low Income Countries. The investment round was a combination of private investments by members of Maple Leaf Angels excited by the triple bottom line prospects of impact investment, investments from organizations with mandates to commercialize research (MaRS Innovation, Ontario Centers of Excellence, and the Connaught Seed Fund), and a large grant from Grand Challenges Canada. He has agreed to chair the board of Chipcare.

“This technology has the potential to save and improve the lives of millions around the world by bringing state-of-the-art blood testing to patients, instead of asking the sick to travel to labs that are often difficult to reach,” said James Dou, ChipCare’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer. “The impact on in-the-field HIV diagnostics alone could be revolutionary; this financing is critical to our commercialization roadmap.”

ChipCare’s Phase II project plan calls for a three-year development of the device to further refine its functionality, develop a more robust prototype and reduce costs, as part of the move to scale. The innovative financing model supporting this development was made possible, in part, with the leadership of the Government of Canada through Grand Challenges Canada.

“This initiative underscores our government’s commitment to support innovation, leverage private sector know-how, and harness venture capital expertise in pursuit of game-changing development and global health solutions. This project will make a difference by saving lives in developing countries and creating jobs here in Canada,” said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development.

ChipCare’s handheld analyzer has the capacity to transform the way in which point-of-care diagnostics are delivered in the field for both developed and developing world populations. It stands apart from contemporary tools for three reasons:

1. Its unique design makes the analyzer significantly less expensive than other similar devices.
2. Proprietary technology enables test results that are faster and demonstrably more accurate than existing standards.
3. The device enables the potential to run not only one but multiple diagnostics simultaneously.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is at least the second largest healthcare angel investment in Canada’s history – and it might well be the largest by the time the project reaches full maturity,” said Adrian Schauer of Maple Leaf Angels. “The diagnostic potential of this device can hardly be overstated. We are investing heavily in its commercialization because we see the potential to revolutionize bedside testing for many conditions, from HIV and malaria in the developing world, to sepsis, heart disease and cancers here at home.”

Read more in the Toronto Star article at:

Maternal Health Plus: Reducing maternal mortality in Nigeria through cell phones

Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Many Nigerian women lack access to basic health information, prenatal care and professional assistance during childbirth. A majority, however, have access to mobile phones.

The second initiative we’ve been supporting is a pilot research study in Osun State, Nigeria focused on determining whether a text messaging campaign linking pregnant women with health information and community health extension workers improves access to prenatal care and health outcomes. This initiative is the brainchild of Oluwatosin Omole, a Nigerian physician determined to reduce maternal mortality in his country. He believes that improved access to health information via text messaging, including reminders to seek prenatal care, will encourage women to attend prenatal care, and improve their overall chances of a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

In collaboration with researchers from Obafemi Awolowo University, pregnant women from two primary care centres in Osun State will be recruited to participate. Of those who accept to participate, half will be randomized to receive free, weekly text messages providing health information appropriate for their stage of pregnancy and reminders to attend prenatal clinics. Participants will also be able to submit questions about their health free-of-charge via text messaging to community health extension workers supported by healthcare professionals.

We feel pilot studies such as this are important in determining whether maternal health promotion campaigns using text messages are an effective tool in tackling the burden of maternal mortality and improving access to information and prenatal care. This pilot study should add further information to the growing body of evidence…

Update on the first initiative we’re supporting: mHealth for maternal and newborn health in Western Kenya


Interface for Community Health Workers

Community health workers in Western Kenya have been very busy helping pregnant women and children improve their access to health information and healthcare since our last post on this initiative of Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya, and the University of Toronto. 

Through this initiative, the work of community health workers has been supported by smartphones equipped with open source software: electronic health records, accessible health information and clinical decision support tools. So far, ninety community health workers have been trained to use these smartphones and dispatched into communities with them.

The smartphones contain electronic health records that allow for patient tracking and recording of health information. The smartphones have been equipped with specially designed clinical decision support tools that help community health workers provide tailored health information to the women and children they visit. For example, using tools on the smartphone, a community health worker is able to determine when a pregnant women is due and prompted to provide appropriate prenatal health information for her stage of pregnancy. The smartphones have also been loaded with video clips that provide maternal and child health information in local languages.

In the next few months, the pilot phase of this project will be wrapping up and the initiative will undergo an evaluation. Next phase: scaling up and/or replication?

Moi Project – Our First Initiative Providing Mobile Technology to Community Health Workers

For the first initiative of the Madiro Fund, we have decided to support a local project in Kenya that intersects our areas of interest and expertise: mobile technology and the health of children!

Healthy pregnancies and deliveries are essential for the health of babies and children. Unfortunately, many rural Kenyan women are unable to access adequate prenatal and perinatal care due to financial constraints and transportation barriers.

We have identified a university-based Kenyan initiative that plans to distribute smartphones to community health volunteers that visit the homes of pregnant women and newborns in villages to offer health advice.

The smartphones will provide these volunteers with clinical decision support tools that allow them to tailor their health messages to individual families, and identify those at higher risk of complications for referral to health care professionals. The open source software designed for these smartphones will also allow information to be saved in electronic health records and to collect anonymous data for program evaluation purposes.

Although we are aware that mobile technology is not a panacea, we believe that it can be used as a tool to help promote the health of communities. We are optimistic that this first project that our Foundation is supporting, will not only help improve the health of women and children in rural Kenya, but will also provide important lessons on how to scale-up and replicate similar initiatives.

An interesting model: TechnoServe – Business Solutions to Poverty

I came across TechnoServe as a friend of mine is heading to Côte d’Ivoire to be their Deputy Country Director. Their mission is:  to help entrepreneurial men and women in poor areas of the developing world to build businesses that create income, opportunity and economic growth for their families, their communities and their countries.  

They now operate in 40 countries with 900+ employees. A testament to the power of empowering entrepreneurs!

TechnoServe's roadmap to development

I look forward to hearing about Manu’s experience with them.

Madiro looks to partner with Grand Challenges Canada

We had a great meeting with Peter Singer and the team at Grand Challenges Canada. They have a great pipeline of opportunities in health innovations for the developing world that are in need of funding and mentoring. Of roughly 600 applicants, they select 120 finalists who can receive $100k grants to develop and market their innovations. A subset of these will qualify for follow-on funding. Their key grand challenges are:

A fifth, still in development, is Strengthening Health Enterprises. Modelled on the Oxford Lotus program and sharing lots in common with one of our heroes, the Acumen Fund, we see this as a great opportunity to get involved with social VC (the patient Venture Capital kind… not the Silicon Valley Vulture Capital variety!).
We’re looking at various ways to get involved, from being a part of the selection committee to meeting the finalists at the World’s Fair in July 2012 in the Development Exchange. Some finalists who are not ready to put $100k to work right away may benefit from a smaller investment by the Madiro Fund and some help to advance the idea.