PhD student at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Moses Kebalepile, has won first place at the international pitchfest, a Swiss-South African Venture leaders Programme (SSAVP), held in Zurich, Switzerland, for his innovative early warning system, Asthma Grid, that predicts an imminent asthma attack.

SSAVP is administered by the Innovation Skills Development of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), an entity of the Department of Science and Technology.

The programme is a framework providing motivation, entrepreneurial know-how and support to scientists from both countries while contributing to strengthen the cooperation between industries of South Africa and Switzerland.

“Winning first place at the international pitchfest validates the potential Asthma Grid has in addressing the global need for a patient-centric solution to asthma treatment,” said Kebalepile.

“It also opens doors for international collaborations and partnership, which is good for commercialisation,” continued Kebalepile.

According to a report by the Global Initiative for Asthma, South Africa has one of the highest asthma related deaths in the world affecting people between the ages of 5 to 35 years-old. Of the more than four million South Africans suffering from this ailment, 1.5% die from the condition annually.

Asthma Grid is a wearable device that calculates the likelihood of an attack based on environmental exposures such as pollutants and aerial allergens through a built-in nano-sensor. The device uses this information and a mathematical algorithm to predict an asthma attack. In this way, asthma sufferers and their primary caregivers will not be caught by surprise when an episode of asthma happen and therefore unnecessary asthma deaths can be prevented.

Kebalepile believes his invention could revolutionise the self-management of asthma and reduce the economic burden of managing asthma, particularly in emerging economies.

“Asthma Grid will empower patients with a self-management system and increase their awareness and compliance with management protocol,” said Kebalepile

The device is currently in the development phase and will undergo further testing once the product is finalised. While Kebalepile has generated enough funding to develop a prototype, the next step is to raise more funds to bring Asthma Grid into the market. Kebalepile hopes to attract both local and international funders.

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