UMT: launching the first effective Urine Malaria Test in Africa

Diagnosing malaria ‘the easy way’ has come a big step closer to rural Africa. To villagers far away from formal health care, the Fyodor Urine Malaria TestTM (UMT) has made it a procedure of minutes. The new low-cost test is already available in Nigeria, with countries in East Africa to follow soon. “Diagnosing malaria sooner can help facilitate prompt treatment and save lives”, says Dr. Victoria Enwemadu, Global Head of Projects of Fyodor Biotechnologies, that developed and markets the UMT.

In 2015, there were roughly 212 million malaria cases and an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths in the world. Sub-Saharan Africa carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 90% of malaria cases and 92% of malaria deaths. For Africa, the new test is clearly a latest weapon to beat this disease.

Ease to use
Many people in Nigeria are already familiar with the Urine Malaria Test (UMT) in Nigeria that is easy to use and does not require a visit to a doctor or hospital to take one’s blood sample. It is the first effective test based on urine, available in local pharmacies; it is the first ever non-blood (one-step, no blood, no reagents, no equipment, visually read) rapid test that tells in 25 minutes or less if a fever is due to malaria or not. “It removes the complexity, pain and risks associated with a blood test. Anyone can self-test for malaria and – if tested positive – get treated sooner”, says Dr. Victoria Enwemadu.
The UMT, that shows some resemblance with pregnancy tests, is actually a Nigerian invention by Dr. Eddy Agbo, Chief Executive Officer of Fyodor Biotechnologies. For this invention, he and his company were awarded the Outstanding Business Innovation by Africa Diaspora Award by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) in 2014 and the 2015 Health Innovation Challenge Award.

Studies and trials in Nigeria
The studies and trials to determine the efficacy and quality of UMT have been performed in Enugu State, Nigeria, last year, supported by the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, University of Lagos, College of Medicine and the Federal Ministry of Health. “You could call UMT a Nigeria diaspora innovation”, says Dr. Enwemadu in the Maryland (US) based office of Fyodor Biotechnologies, where most of the development work was done.

“We are still a small company with limited resources. Not many people know that we are actually only a small operation!”, Dr. Enwemadu smiles. “We managed the launch in Nigeria in 2015 and are preparing to cross over to other countries, starting with Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda”, says Dr. Enwemadu, who is looking for launching, sales and distribution partners in several countries in Sub-Sahara countries.

Scale operation, lower prices
That is not the only step Fyodor is taking. “After having done all the development work and clinical trials, the sales price of the UMT is currently about 1 dollar 50 to 2 dollars. That is about the same prices as other self-test products that involve blood samples. And a lot more affordable than the rates some government and private hospitals and clinics charge. There is our edge: the UMT is easy, customer-friendly and affordable. At least, it is to middle-class Nigerians. By expanding our distribution to other African countries, we aim to scale our operations. One of the next steps would be to produce the UMT in Africa and lower the price further. That way, even rural Africans that live on a dollar a day, can also afford to have themselves tested for malaria, and if tested positive, get treated promptly.”
Are you interested in funding or in establishing partnerships in Africa, contact Fyodor.

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