Doctor testing a phial of blood for diseases

CWRU-led team wins Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation competition

Courtesy of the Case School of Engineering

Umut Gurkan, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and his team have won first prize in the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation competition for their remote diagnostic technology SMART.

SMART (Sickle and Malaria Accurate Remote Testing) is an integrated point-of-care technology platform that links with electronic health record systems to diagnose, track and monitor sickle cell disease and malaria patients in low-resource settings. The project is a collaborative effort among Case Western Reserve University, University of Nebraska Medical Center, International Foundation against Infectious Disease in Nigeria, eHealth Africa and Hemex Health.

Headshot of Umut GurkanThe sickle cell diagnostic technology was invented by Gurkan and his research team, and the malaria diagnostic component was invented by Brian Grimberg, assistant professor of international health at the School of Medicine. Hemex Health is commercializing both diagnostic technologies. The University of Nebraska Medical Center and eHealth Africa are developing the mobile health app for smart phones and tablets to facilitate accurate record keeping and patient follow-up.

It is estimated that sickle cell disease affects nearly 25 million people around the world while nearly 3.4 billion people are at risk for contracting malaria. The SMART project aims to provide solutions for early sickle cell and malaria diagnosis through point-of-care testing and mobile device registries in health facility settings in Kano, Nigeria, with hopes of someday scaling to the rest of the country. “Nigeria carries the largest burden of sickle cell disease and malaria in all of Africa,” Gurkan said.

SMART will integrate patient data into an electronic medical record system for access by doctors, administrators and researchers. The novel diagnostic system for sickle cell disease and malaria under development by Hemex Health will be a key component, providing not only accurate, easy-to-use and affordable testing, but also linking into the system to transmit results wirelessly to the patient record.

“The current methods used to diagnose sickle cell are cumbersome and inaccurate, and the paper system for tracking patients can result in mix-ups,” Gurkan said. “In order for this painful and deadly disease to be successfully managed, early, accurate testing and consistent follow-up are required.”

With SMART, aggregate patient data will be accessible to public health officials for disease surveillance. Speaking about the importance of this capability for controlling malaria, Grimberg said, “We will be able to send teams to help screen and treat people to help stem the tide of the outbreak right at the beginning.”

The team received a planning grant from Case Western Reserve’s Institute for Smart, Secure and Connected Systems Internet of Things initiative to prepare an application for this competition.

The Vodafone Americas Foundation unveiled the winners and awarded $600,000 in grants at the Social Innovation Summit this week in San Francisco. As the first prize winner, SMART received a $300,000 award.

Now in its 10th year, the contest features the latest connected innovations designed to address critical issues facing the global community.

For more information about the competition, watch the WIP 2018 YouTube video.

Learn more about the SMART project on the Hemex Health website.