The quantitative rapid diagnostic test for malaria


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What MALARIA means

Data from: World Malaria Report 2020


of the world population at risk of infection


of cases was in Africa Region


of deaths was in Africa

229 M

cases in 2019




of deaths was children under 5 years

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.

Rapid Diagnostic Test market size

Data from: World Malaria Report 2020

global market
346 M RDT sold in 2019


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 in a small chamber.

2. A microchip with micron-sized magnetic concentrators and sending electrodes, is used to seal the chamber and placed in vertical position, 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 sensing electrodes allow for their quantification.

4. The signal is displayed on a notebook or smartphone connected to the diagnostic apparatus.











Need of a compact, low-cost and easy to use diagnostic system, which allows a rapid detection, with the same sensitivity of the Gold Standard

World Health Organisation

State of the art of diagnostic tests 

GS: It consists of the direct microscopic parasite investigation performed both on a thick and on a thin blood film stained on a glass slide. The evaluation is performed through the count of the number of infected RBCs over different fields of view and the result is expressed with respect to the total number of RBCs evaluated (parasitaemia%). The limit of detection (LoD) ranges from 4 to 20 parasites/μL, but the operational time required for the analysis is around 30 to 60 minutes. Moreover the accuracy is user dependent.

RDT: Antigen-detecting RDT technology it is considered to be a significative alternative to the gold standard. The solution proposed by the RDT technology is cheap and easy to use. The test is fast compared to the gold standard, requiring only 20 minutes, and it can reach a LoD that is around 200 parasites/μL. Critical aspects of RDTs are the presence of a sizable number of false positive and negative results, as well as the inability to quantify the parasitaemia, leading to a non quantitative diagnostic test.

PCR: is based on the detection of specific nucleic acid sequences. It is an enzymatic assay which amplifies a specific segment of a DNA template by creating thousands of copies of that particular sequence. It presents the highest sensitivity and specificity that both reaches 100% for parasitaemia levels of few parasites/μL (0,0001%) and, in addition, it is able to detect all kind of plasmodium species. High costs, long operation time, and the fact of being a qualitative test in the version suitable for on field application, are the critical aspects of this technology.

Among other advantages, TMek is faster than any diagnostic test currently on the market (it takes just 7 minutes) and offers the unique feature of allowing for the automatic quantification of the parasitaemia.


Our mission is developing diagnostic technologies suitable for on-site use in endemic zones, like the rapid diagnostic test TMek for malaria. The initial project “Tid Mekii” (from the name of malaria in Camerun), originates from the social program “Polisocial awards” of Politecnico di Milano. In this spirit, we invented the concept of “social patent”, i.e. a form of protection of the intellectual property against a pure economic deployment.
Our business model is based on the principles of corporate ethics, with the aim of conjugating high technology, sustainable economy and social needs.


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. Requests Politecnico di Milano adopting 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”.

Where we are

S2P competition 2018

Disruptive Innovation Award


Prototype under validation at Sacco Hospital and in Cameroon

Clinical validation

St Luc Hospital of Mbalmayo – Cameroon

features after the first validation

  • Direct and automatic quantification of the parasitaemia
  • Quantification of circulating malaria pigment
  • Panplasmodic test
  • Suitable for post treatment monitoring of illness evolution
  • Specimen: 7 μl of whole blood from a prick test
  • Test operating time: 7 minutes
  • Storage conditions: -20°C – 50°C (to be refined)
  • Sensitivity: 100% (93.3-100) (venous sampling) – 100% (63.0-100) (capillary sampling)
  • Specificity: 69% (49.2-84.7) (venous sampling) – 100% (capillary sampling)
  • LOD: 10 parasites / μl (0.0002% parasitaemia)

Development plan/1

Who we are

Academic staff

Riccardo Bertacco

Riccardo Bertacco


Full Professor
Dept. of Physics – Polifab

Giorgio Ferrari

Giorgio Ferrari

Development of the integrated electronics

Researcher– Electronic Eng.

Gianfranco Beniamino Fiore

Gianfranco Beniamino Fiore

Hematic treatments

Associate Professor
Biomedical Eng.

…past members

  Jonathan  Barsotti

Jonathan Barsotti

Electrical  measurements
Data Analysis
Test Optimization

PhD on Organic Electronics

  Francesca  Milesi

Francesca Milesi

Chip production
Test optimization

PhD Candidate in Physics Engineering

Lorenzo Coppadoro

Lorenzo Coppadoro

Hematic treatments
Mechanical setup 

PhD Candidate in Biomedical Eng.

Tommaso Pravettoni

Tommaso Pravettoni

Electrical measurements
 Chip Production

Physics Engineering   Master Student

Cainã  de Oliveira Figares

Cainã de Oliveira Figares

Integrated  Electronics

Electronic Engineering Master Student

Our partners

Divisione IIIª di Malattie Infettive dell'Università di Milano.

Doctors and researchers of Divisione IIIª of the Infective Diseases section of the University of Milano (Ospedale Sacco)

Prof. Spinello Antinori

Dott. Romualdo Grande

Hopital Saint Luc de Mbalmayo

Dott. Paul Tina (Director)

Joel Bombe (Diagnostic Lab. Manager)


Rosa Scandella
(Outgoing President)


Giacometti M., Rinaldi C., Monticelli M., Callegari L., Collovini A., Petti D., Ferrari G., Bertacco R.,
“Electrical and magnetic properties of hemozoin nanocrystals”.

Applied Physics Letters, 113(20), 203703 (2018).

Milesi F., Giacometti M., Coppadoro L.P., Ferrari G., Fiore G.B., Bertacco R.,
“On-Chip Selective Capture and Detection of Magnetic Fingerprints of Malaria”.
Sensors 2020, 20, 4972.

Giacometti M., Milesi F., Coppadoro P.L., Antinori S., Bertacco R.,
“A Lab-On-chip Tool for Rapid, Quantitative, and Stage-selective Diagnosis of Malaria”.
Advanced Science, 2021, 8(14), 2004101.

Giacometti M., Monticelli M., Piola M., Fiore G.B., Bertacco R.
“On-chip magnetophoretic capture in a model of malaria-infected red blood cells”.
Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 2022, 119(4), pp. 1129–1141


Prof. Riccardo Bertacco

Department of Physics – Politecnico di Milano
Via Giuseppe Colombo 81, 20133 Milano (Italy)
tel. +39.02.2399.9663

Prof. Giorgio Ferrari

DEIB – Politecnico di Milano
Via Giuseppe Colombo 81, 20133 Milano (Italy)