Malaria is one of the most common, and deadly, infectious diseases and a great public health problem worldwide. Every year, over 200 million cases of malaria lead to more than half a million deaths, mostly in children under five years of age. Current therapies have transformed malaria treatment, but there is a serious concern that malaria parasites are once again developing widespread resistance. As the threat of antimalarial drug resistance grows, there is increasing pressure to develop new treatments.
The UK-based startup MediSieve is developing a groundbreaking drug-free malaria treatment, a magnetic filter that physically remove infected blood cells directly from a patient’s bloodstream. Red blood cells infected with a malaria parasite have magnetic properties, enabling the filter to capture them without affecting healthy cells. Similar to dialysis, the patient’s blood is continuously circulated through a magnetic filter device via an external blood loop, capturing infected cells with the malaria parasite, and returning healthy blood to the patient unharmed.
Initial trial show the filter could extract up to 90% of infected cells from a person in just 3.5 hours. The device could be used as a standalone treatment or in combination with drugs, and the startup’s ambition is to become an essential treatment for severe and drug-resistant patients. They are specially targeting children and pregnant women who currently only receive antimalarial drugs once their infection burden is too high for the treatment to be effective.
Almost half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, and a child dies of the disease every minute. Although death rates have fallen globally, the development and spread of drug resistant malaria parasites is increasing and the most deadly species of the parasite have developed resistance to nearly all antimalarial drug currently in use. MediSieve has developed an innovative device that is able to reduce a patient’s infection burden much faster than with drugs alone, and is specifically aimed at the most vulnerable malaria patients, those whose cases are severe or drug-resistant. It could help patients recover faster, keep symptoms at bay, and increase their likelihood of survival. Not only could this save lives, but reduce the need for aggressive expensive intravenous drugs, providing economic benefits to both healthcare systems and patients, while improving outcomes. And with the spread of drug resistant malaria parasites looming large, MediSieve could help patients manage malaria and keep symptoms at bay indefinitely.
MediSieve was founded in 2015 by George Frodsham after he was awarded his PhD in biochemical engineering from University College London, during which he developed the magnetic blood filter. The startup has since secured £350,000 in seed funding from angel investors, been awarded a Pathfinder Award from the Wellcome Trust, won an Innovate UK Smart Proof of Concept Award grant woth £100,000, and a runner-up spot at Pitch@Palace 5.0. MediSieve was also named a Best Start-up Medtech Company finalist at the 2016 OBN Awards, and was a finalist of the MassChallenge UK, a global non-profit startup accelerator and competition for high-impact, early-stage entrepreneurs.