Notes from the classroom: Before leaving for Botswana

by Anjali Sastry on March 18, 2012

Dateline: mid-March 2012
Lcocation: MIT Sloan
By: Sydney Atkins and Julia Kay Preis

 
With our trip around the corner we struggle to strike a healthy balance of excitement and anticipation. Neither of us been to Botswana, and both are excited for our work ahead with Daktari Diagnostic. Daktari is a diagnostic company based in Cambridge MA, dedicated to providing medical technology for the poor. Currently they are preparing for clinical trials for their first product, a point of care device that measures CD4 levels in HIV positive patients. This has tremendous commercial potential, and having recently raised $15 million, the company is looking at market opportunities for future products. A logical next opportunity could be in the area of maternal health.

Daktari Diagnostics develops simple, accurate, and affordable products that address the most pressing challenges in global health. From http://www.daktaridx.com/

With an HIV/AIDS infection rate reported to be 25% in Botswana, the second highest in the world, the infection has captivated the time and resource of the government. Mother to child transmission is significant cause of HIV/AIDs transmissions, and the fundamental platform for the first Daktrai product (CD4 Counter), could welcome some new blood based tests in the field of maternal health. Issues of pre-eclempsia, anemia, gestational diabetes, hemorrhage, placental disorders, and influenza have haunted mother’s and babies throughout the world. Management of these conditions widely varies based on resource, distance from major hospitals and laboratories, and medical training of personal.

The focus of our project is to assess opportunities for Daktari in the area of maternal health in Botswana. Given the history of Botswana, and prevalence of natural resource (Diamonds), the government has resource, and is looking to combat the health challenges facing the country. Daktari has a captive audience for the CD4 point of care unit that they plan to run clinical tests on this upcoming fall; however, we would like to explore if the same enthusiasm will surround a maternal health product.

Our pre-departure meetings have been most informative; however, we fully expect the challenges we face to adopt new dynamics as we get to the field. Our recent weeks have involved a substantial amount of education in maternal health. Scott Dryden-Peterson, Boston-Harvard Partnership, provided us a unique vantage point on both maternal health and Botswana. Having lived in the country, Scott offered a helpful landscape of the health system, forewarned us of challenges we many encounter, and advised us on questions to ask.

With only three meetings planned, but many doors open, we embark on our journey to Botswana. We are excited and eager to learn what opportunities may lie ahead for Daktari and the future of a maternal health point of care diagnostic.

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