UP Phd student scoops up local and international awards with innovative life-saving device

Posted on January 24, 2017


Mr Moses Kebalepile, a PhD student in the School of Health Systems and Public Health of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria (UP), has walked away with top prizes in both the prestigious Gauteng Accelerator Programme (GAP) Innovation Competitions for 2016 and the International Pitchfest held in Zurich, Switzerland, early in January 2017. He was awarded the prizes for his invention of a medical diagnostic instrument called the Asthma Grid, an electronic medical device that acts as an early warning system for imminent asthma attacks.

Mr Kebalepile's motivation for finding a solution to support individuals suffering from this debilitating disease stems from the fact that he has two siblings who suffer from asthma. Approximately 4 million South Africans live with the disease and the country has one of the highest asthma-related death rates in the world for people between the ages of 5 and 35 years. Mr Kebalepile believes that many of these deaths could be prevented if it were possible to predict the attacks before they happen. 

There are currently two designs for the Asthma Grid: One is a hand-held unit, and the other is worn on the wrist and has dermal patches and a mouth-piece. The patient can enter personal details on the device to create a unique profile, which also takes into account their environment. All the patient then has to do is blow into the device and it predicts their chance of having an attack.

The GAP Innovation Competitions are aimed at identifying top Gauteng-based innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs seeking to take their prototypes and late-stage research and development to market. The medical category, in which Mr Kebalepile competed, focuses on identifying health innovations that will contribute to the improvement of health services and novel medical technologies. The four winners in this category each receive seed funding for their products and have the opportunity to join the prestigious Maxum Business Incubator at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria. Mr Kebalepile placed first among the four winners and received seed funding to the value of R500 000, which will open up doors for developing the product by 2018.

The International Pitchfest in turn, takes place under the Swiss-South African Venture Leaders Programme, a framework that provides motivation, entrepreneurial know-how and support to scientists from both South Africa and Switzerland, while strengthening the cooperation between industries in the two countries. Candidates take part in a training programme in Switzerland for young, ambitious South African and Swiss entrepreneurs, which is organised by venturelab, a private initiative that supports start-up talents who have the ambition and potential to grow internationally.



- Author Ansa Heyl

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