Photo Credit: Courtesy of ZzappMalaria
The ZzappMalaria app assigns tasks to field workers based on AI analysis of mosquito breeding areas.

ZzappMalaria, the startup that developed a mobile app and managerial dashboard that helps eliminate malaria, has won first place in the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE Competition as well as the People’s Choice Award as the “Most Inspiring Team.”

The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE is a five-year global competition that aims to demonstrate how humans can collaborate with powerful artificial intelligence technologies to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing our world.

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As part of the award, the company will receive a $3 million prize to continue driving forward its mission of ridding the world of the deadly mosquito-borne disease.

“Defeating Malaria was one of the first achievements that enabled Israel to come into existence. It was the result of science and creativity, but mostly of faith. Faith that it is possible and faith that it needs to be done,” said ZzappMalaria’s CEO Arnon Houri-Yafin. “Our company employs advanced technology to enable similar eradication of the disease in tropical climates and under complex circumstances.”

According to WHO statistics from 2019, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide, leading to the death of 409,000 people, with children under the age of five accounting for 274,000 (67%) of its victims.

ZzappMalaria, which was founded in 2017 as a spin-off of Sight Diagnostics, developed an end-to-end solution that seeks to eliminate the disease by targeting malaria-bearing mosquitos for larviciding operations. The mobile app harnesses a predictive algorithm that processes satellite imagery, climate, and topography data to tailor optimal malaria-elimination interventions for prone locations and ensures their execution. The company leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to constantly improve its operations, recently collaborating with IBM on a system that predicts the impact of weather on mosquito populations. ZzappMalaria’s technology was designed to work in areas without internet connectivity, and on low-cost phones, which are common in developing regions that suffer most from the disease.

Start-Up Nation Central, a leading organization that empowers Israeli innovation, including those that seek to solve global health problems, congratulated ZzapMalaria on the award.

In 2019, Start-Up Nation Central facilitated an important business engagement between ZzappMalaria and Goodbye Malaria, an African organization that aims to eradicate malaria in Mozambique with a $20 million commitment from the Gates Foundation and the Global Fund.

“Start-Up Nation Central is proud to support and empower the work of ZzappMalaria and all other Israeli companies that harness deep technology to overcome global challenges,” said Eliran Elimelech, Start-Up Nation Central’s Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships. “Start-Up Nation Central connects global players to Israeli innovative solutions, developing partnerships and collaborations to create business platforms on the ground in both developed and emerging markets.”

“The digital health sector continues to flourish in Israel, which is home to approximately 700 innovative companies, as well as technology hubs, research and development centers, incubators, and multinational corporations that are active in this space. Within the ecosystem, almost 50% of digital health companies utilize artificial intelligence in their solutions. Furthermore, 90% of digital health companies that raised funds in 2020 were AI-driven companies, and most of the AI-driven companies were in the field of diagnostics and decision support, which provides essential tools for healthcare providers in numerous settings,” said Lena Rogovin, Senior Research Analyst and Sector Lead, Digital Health & Life Sciences at Start-Up Nation Central.

“We have consistently found in Start-Up Nation Central and its leaders Prof. Eugen Kandel and Wendy Singer a source for good advice, great connections, and a sense of partnerships, with a belief that everything is possible at its foundation,” Houri-Yafin said.

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