The Praesens Foundation was founded by Dr. Rudi Pauwels, serial entrepreneur and founder of, among others, the Mechelen biotech companies Tibotec, Virco and Biocartis. He was urged to start this initiative after he himself had identified the flaws in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015. The lack of resources and the limited access to on-site diagnostics technologies showed that there is a real need for rapid, accurate and user-friendly diagnostic tests that reach patients, even in isolated areas. In less than two years, the idea evolved from a rough sketch to a fully equipped Mobile Lab. Steven Pauwels and partner Aurélie Cappuyns are the driving force behind the Private Foundation.
In collaboration with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, they have now been active for nine months in Senegal with their prototype Mobile Lab. In the context of an evaluation study, the vehicle has been deployed in areas that are difficult to reach and / or with a very limited or non-existent health infrastructure. The intention was to carry out extensive terrain tests. In the meantime, they have already tested in more than 10 sites in various regions (both climatologically and epidemiologically) in Senegal.
This solution has already been used during a Dengue epidemic at the request of the Ministry of Health. The Mobile Lab has thus effectively made a difference in the field and has already proven its right to exist as a rapid intervention unit. This initiative also contributes to strengthening local capacities, by training teams on the ground and preparing them to take off in the event that a new public health threat arises.
Thanks to its autonomy, connectivity and flexible space, the Mobile Lab can be fully equipped according to the needs and equipped according to the context, so the applications are diverse and have evolved into a complete mobile healthcare platform.
The pilot study was very successful and has demonstrated the usefulness and impact of this solution. At an international symposium that Praesens Fund organized in Dakar at the end of May, the results were shared with 100+ decision makers and investors from the Global Health sector who hopefully will be able to further develop these activities and deploy projects on a larger scale in other countries. The first Mobile Lab was officially donated during this closing conference and handed over to the Institut Pasteur de Dakar in the presence of the Belgian ambassador. Two major partnerships were also announced with Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and Africa CDC, which offer very interesting opportunities for collaboration in the future.
Thanks to b.foundation and Brussels Airlines, the Praesens team and the many materials in the past 9 months could be flown to Dakar, which was an indispensable contribution to the project.
More info can be found on their website www.praesensfoundation.org