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UWC Bioinformaticist Finalist for Innovation Prize in Africa

UWC bioinformatics is a top ten finalist for the Innovation Prize for Africa

For the past five years the African Innovation Foundation has selected the most innovative project on the African continent for the award of its highly competitive and prestigious Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA).

The ten finalists for the 2016 IPA were announced on 9 May 2016, and amongst this elite group was UWC 2015 PhD graduate and post-doctoral research fellow, Dr Imogen Wright, representing UWC’s spin-off company, Hyrax Biosciences’ Exatype programme.

Exatype is a novel software application which enables healthcare workers to rapidly evaluate HIV DNA in an HIV-AIDS infected patient’s blood in order to gauge the patient’s level of resistance to different HIV antiretroviral drugs. With 71% of those living with HIV/AIDS residing in Africa, the speed, simplicity and accuracy of this unique solution to a complex problem has the potential to bring personalised medicine within the reach of those most in need.

Widely recognised as the premier award for African innovation, the IPA has attracted submissions since 2011 from over 6 000 African innovators from 50 African countries - with 958 submissions from 46 African countries being considered for the 2016 prize. This year the IPA has recognised innovators for, amongst other things, their breakthrough innovations in HIV/AIDS, malaria treatment and breast cancer screening, increasing agricultural productivity and more efficient energy utilisation.

Pauline Mujawamariya Koelbl, director of the IPA, in an interview last week with Forbes is quoted as follows:

“The IPA is significant because it provides a unique platform to identify, reward and mobilise support for African innovators in order to unlock their potential. The powerful examples of Africans solving African problems, unveiled by IPA each year, serve as a testimony that the African innovation story did not end with the building of the pyramids.”

After a series of one-on-one interviews with the ten finalists, the IPA panel will announce the 2016 IPA winner at a gala event in Gaborone, Botswana on 23 June. The winning finalist will receive a US$100 000 prize and the opportunity, through the associated publicity, to attract significant venture capital in order to provide a real-time African solution to one of the African continent’s most pressing challenges.