What MALARIA means
Data from: World Malaria Report 2018
of the world population at risk of infection
of cases was in Africa Region
of deaths was in Africa
cases in 2017
of deaths was children under 5 years old
WHO recommends prompt parasite-based diagnosis in all patients suspected of malaria before treatment is administered. Malaria rapid diagnostic tests have the potential to greatly improve the quality of management of malaria infections, especially in remote areas with limited access to good quality microscopy services.
Malaria disease is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which attacks red blood cells. During the intra-erythrocytic development Plasmodium feeds on hemoglobin, degrading it into hemozoin nanocrystals. Being paramagnetic, these crystals allow for the magnetic separation of infected red blood cells from healthy ones.
The diagnostic test TMek exploits this property to quantify infected red blood cells:
1. a small drop of blood is placed on a glass slide
2. a microchip with some micron-sized magnetic concentrators and electrodes, is placed on top of the glass slide, in the magnetic field produced by an external magnet
3. healthy RBC and other corpuscles sediment while i-RBC are captured on the surface of concentrators, where the electrodes allows for their quantification
4. the signal is displayed on a notebook or smartphone connected to the diagnostic apparatus.
The nature of the Polisocial Awards grant which made possible the research on TMek, forced us to think about an unusual kind of protection of the intellectual property: the “social patent”. The scope was not protecting our intellectual properties to beneficiate from possible revenues or other economic initiatives. The idea was to protect the invention against a pure economic deployment. Malaria is a serious medical and social problem; our invention couldn’t become just a way of transforming it in a business.
For this reason, in agreement with the TTO of Politecnico di Milano, we signed an internal document preliminary to the patent application where the inventors:
1. give up all possible revenues from the exploitation of the IP, while declaring their interest in continuing the development of the diagnostic test;
2. request that Politecnico di Milano adopt a no-profit exploitation strategy, compatible with the principles of responsible, sustainable and fair development, as well as attentive to local and global social needs. This was the ideation of the “Social Patent”.