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[Startups to Watch] 'Noul aims to become major player in eradicating malaria'
  • By Lee Han-soo
  • Published 2019.06.12 11:01
  • Updated 2019.06.13 11:47
  • comments 0

Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, is one of the most common infectious diseases that afflict the Third World. According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) "World Malaria Report for 2015," malaria is responsible for 600,000 to 700,000 deaths worldwide each year. Africa accounts for 90 percent of the total deaths.

Noul, a local medical diagnostic device company, plans to root out malaria by using its patented device called miLab, its CEO says. Although the size of the miLab is only about the size of a small box, David Lim believes that the device will help eradicate malaria in Africa.

Noul CEO David Lim explains how MiLab operates and what the company's short- and long-term goals are during an interview with Korea Biomedical Review at the company's headquarters in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, on Wednesday.

Diagnosis and treatment of malaria are critical, but most African patients cannot find a hospital due to the dearth of medical facilities and economic reasons,” Lim said in an interview with Korea Biomedical Review on Wednesday. “By using MiLab, a drop of blood can tell hospitals whether or not a person has malaria as well as the type and stage of the disease within 10 minutes.”

Inconveniences such as collecting much blood will be a thing of the past, Lim added.

MiLab’s core technology consists of a proprietary technique that stains blood and tissue with solid patch instead of using liquid formulas.

Many diseases require the process of staining and reading human tissues for an accurate diagnosis. Currently, most hospitals draw blood from the patients and dye it with a special solution. However, MiLab succeeded in developing a technique to solidify the tissue by consolidating the dye into a solid patch substance that could press the blood like a stamp. Such solidification dissolved the need for water and sewage treatment facilities that were conventionally needed in the dying process, making the test simpler than before. The process can also have a massive cut in costs for hospitals that run the test.

"Running a diagnostic laboratory in a hospital costs about 300 million won ($253,000) a year, even excluding labor costs," Lim said. "MiLab can significantly reduce the cost and increase the reliability of disease diagnosis."

Researches have already shown that MiLab is more accurate than diagnostics medical staffs, Lim emphasized, adding that his company plans to begin clinical trials to prove the accuracy of malaria diagnosis this year.

Asked why the company chose malaria as the first disease for the company to focus on, Lim said that choosing to focus on malaria as the first diagnostic target for the company was easy.

"The company first wanted to solve a major global medical problem," Lim said. "Malaria is one of the third most common infectious diseases in the world, along with tuberculosis and AIDS, while the disease is also the most difficult to diagnose among the three as it is concentrated mainly in developing countries."

Lim said that the United Nation's sustainable development goal of eliminating malaria by 2030 was also one of the primary reasons that the company decided to diagnose malaria.

"After defining the illness to diagnose, we started to develop the device under the technical spec guideline published by the U.N.," Lim said. "Although it was not easy, we have made great strides in making a device that works."

Such efforts have been noticed by Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a globally renowned non-profit organization driving innovation in the development and delivery of diagnostics to combat major diseases affecting the world's most impoverished population. FIND contacted the company and is cooperating for running clinical trials for the device.

Also, the Basel University Bio-innovation Center in Switzerland selected Noul as an innovative company in 2017, and MiLab was named one of the "Notable 15 Innovators" during the U.N.'s Forum on Science, Technology, and Innovation at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in June of 2016.

In the future, the company plans on upgrading MiLab to diagnose everything from cancer to the common cold.

"Of course, Noul is actively looking for sources of revenue, but at the same time we are also a company that tries to solve global issues," Lim said. "We aim to become a game changer in the field of diagnostics."


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