The Digital Diagnostics for Africa Network
The Digital Diagnostics for Africa Network was set up in 2020, funded by the UKRI Global Challenge Research Challenge Fund. The Network is an international and interdisciplinary community of experts with a strong interest in developing innovative digital diagnostics approaches to tackle diseases that primarily affect the African continent.
The Network members share a vision that digital diagnostics can transform healthcare in Africa.
The Network brings together appropriate expertise to develop a strategy for innovative digital diagnostics that address health needs specific to the different regions of the African continent. Built around an innovative digital molecular diagnostics device that has the potential to revolutionize the access to diagnosis and delivery of treatment in Africa, the Network is focused on designing a roadmap required for co-design, development and implementation of new diagnostics for improving the health of some of the poorest communities in the world.
A Roadmap Towards a Digital Diagnostics Ecosystem in Africa
The network will be using the expertise available to define target product profiles and to publish a generic roadmap for development of digital diagnostics for Africa. This will be of great value to the research community, guiding every stage of discovery, innovation and development.
Specifically, we will address issues of detection technologies suitable for the environment in which they are needed; interface design; the roles of human and behavioural factors; implementation strategies; health systems effects; economic evaluation; data generation, collation, curation and analysis; and the role of modelling of potential impact.
By publishing a gold open access article, we will ensure that all potential academic beneficiaries can access this information, and by publicizing this through our institutional Science Media Offices, our own research networks and on social media we will maximize opportunities for other academics to discover our work.
A transformative digital diagnostic for malaria and for other infectious and non-infectious diseases
Most immediately, malaria researchers would benefit enormously from the availability of a high sensitivity point-of-care diagnostic for detection of all human-infective malaria parasite species, which would allow them to estimate the asymptomatic infection reservoir with unprecedented precision, provide real-time spatiotemporal mapping that can pinpoint epidemics and detect hotspots of transmission.
This enabling technology would allow novel intervention strategies to be trialed where they are most needed. Large-scale molecular surveillance enabled by Lacewing would provide unprecedented detail to detect and understand the drivers of the spread of antimalarial resistance.
Artificial intelligence and big data researchers would have the opportunity to develop and test new algorithms for real-time data analysis, detection and prediction of malaria epidemics, and defining quantitative thresholds for clinical malaria in different locations according to local patterns of transmission.
There will also be opportunities to research the ethical issues around using geospatially mapped data, explore record storage and methods for engagement with the marginalized or isolated communities that we would most wish to reach.