Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Sign up to learn more about news, events and opportunities with Stanford Global Health.

Programs in Seed Grants

Establishing a network of automated microscopes for local capacity building and advancing affordable, rapid, automated, and accurate malaria microscopy

Photo via Manu Prakash

While curable, malaria is a major global health burden, directly affecting hundreds of millions of people and leading to more than half a million deaths each year. An enormous number of diagnostics tests — roughly three billion — are required annually to protect individuals living in malaria regions. Yet current tests lack the sensitivity, specificity, and cost-effectiveness needed to effectively meet this demand.

Manual microscopy is labor-intensive, error-prone, and requires specialized training, so co-Principal Investigators Dr. Manu Prakash, MS, PhD, and Dr. Prasanna Jagganathan, MD, developed a cost-effective computer-based microscope system called Octopi to automatically detect malaria parasites in all stages of development. Working with global community partners, the team focuses on making the tools accessible and cost effective. The research team plans to send Octopi systems to various collaborators around the world and validate the use of this system to detect malaria. While the automated microscopes were first developed as a tool for malaria diagnostics, they have also been able to diagnose sickle cell anemia, tuberculosis, and various sexually transmitted diseases, creating the foundation for future innovations in automated diagnostic imaging platforms.

“Our overall design philosophy of ‘Frugal Science’ enables and empowers communities to engage in developing and deploying novel tools for global and planetary health,” said co-Principal Investigator Dr. Prakash. “We intend to change the landscape of infectious disease diagnostics – putting accessible AI-driven diagnostics solutions in the hands of community health workers around the world.”

Principal Investigators: 

Manu Prakash, MS, PhD, Associate Professor of Bioengineering, Stanford University, Department of Bioengineering, Senior Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

Prasanna Jagganathan, MD, Assistant Professor, Stanford University School of Medicine, Departments of Infectious Diseases and of Microbiology and Immunology

Research Team: 

Cephla Inc.; IPD; the Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Ecology Lab (IDEEL), including National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR; Tanzania); Kenya Medical Research; LIBR (NIH prevail); Bernard Kanoi, Mount Kenya University; Lek Dysoley, National Center for Parasitology, Entomology, and Malaria Control (CNM), Cambodia and USAID; Rida Slot, National Center for Parasitology, Entomology, and Malaria Control (CNM), Cambodia and USAID; Bernt Lindtjorn, University of Bergen (Ethiopia); Wilfred Mbacham, Fobang Institutes for Innovations in Science and Technology (Cameroon), Mohammad Sharif Hossain, ICDDR, B (Bangladesh); Wellington Oyibo, University of Lagos (Nigeria)


Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health, Stanford School of Medicine Dean’s Office