US$150K grant to empower health focused start-ups in Kenya
Villgro Kenya, an early-stage, impact investor and business incubator for health innovations in Africa has awarded U$150K (approximately Ksh.15-million) in grant funds to 12 innovative start-ups from East Africa – those with technologies and innovations that could help in testing, monitoring and managing aspects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
According to online information from Kenya’s Ministry of Health, the East African country has 672 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 32 fatalities.
Following the call for local innovations to fight the pandemic, there has been a wave of new inventions emerging from the region’s ecosystem.
Solutions ranging from 3D printed Personal Protective Equipment, rapid testing kits, locally manufactured ventilators, emergency response platforms, have emerged – along with a rise in the uptake of telemedicine, according to Villgro Kenya.
The 12 companies selected for funding and technical assistance include; KEMRI – Rapid Diagnostic Kit, Health-E-Net - Telemedicine platform, Enzi Health – Hail-a-clinic, Flare – Emergency response, Neopenda Uganda - remote patient monitoring device, Maisha Technologies Ethiopia - 3D printing face shields, Simbona Africa – UVC Light treatment, Kijenzi - 3D printing of PPE’s and Medixus – a peer learning platform for doctors.
The business incubator added that the funding will also go to three entities locally manufacturing ventilators; the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Ventilators Africa, and Samuel Kairu a local manufacturer using readily available mechanical materials to manufacture low-cost ventilators.
“The grant will go towards product development, scaling up production to meet local and regional demand, and improving systems to ensure more people get access to quality and affordable healthcare during the pandemic. This is in line with Villgro Kenya’s goal to transform product and process innovations into viable and scalable businesses that impact those at the base of the pyramid (BoP),” reads a statement released by Villgro Kenya.
Villgro Kenya CEO, Dr Robert Karanja said, “Innovations like these show the true resilience and grit communities have to fight health challenges in the African continent. We have come out to support these solutions because we believe they will have the greatest impact on the fight against coronavirus in Africa.”
He added that medical diagnostics and devices are critical in the management of the disease, and the coronavirus has shown the world the need for more investments in diagnostic devices which are able to significantly reduce the cost of treatment and prevent further infections of various diseases.
"We need a sustainable health system geared towards point of care diagnostics to reduce the need for labs to perform medical tests. This will go a long way in reducing the workload of frontline workers and bringing down the cost of healthcare." Dr Karanja added.
The Villgro Kenya team will work closely with the innovators to ensure their products and services support frontline workers, widen the options to quality treatment while encouraging social distancing in low-income communities.