The Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Company was born out of the urgent necessity to help Africans get the healthcare services they deserve. Innovation in areas like biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, information technology, the development of medical devices and equipment, and more are crucial in improving the poorly developed healthcare system in Africa. It is more important than ever for healthcare companies to adopt technology to provide healthcare services.
As the healthcare field continues its rapid growth, emerging technologies are enabling the healthcare sector to embrace innovation on a scale we’ve never seen before. New technologies promise care that is cheaper, faster, and more effective. An example is in the use of Silicon technology. Now, the silicon chip might change again by adding a new material: human neurons.
According to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Africa carries 25% of the global disease burden but only produces 2% of the global research output. This is why we invested and are supporting Koniku, a biotechnology startup that created a device that can smell diseases and biological hazards. This device is called Konikore.
“Our goal is to have a device that merges synthetic biology with silicon and maps all of the smells of human life on a global scale,” says Osh Agabi, CEO at Koniku.
Koniku is the first to fuse live neurons from mice stem cells into a silicon chip. The Konikore, slightly smaller than a frisbee and resembles a flying saucer. When the proteins in its chip bind to a scent it has been programmed to detect, cells amplify and process those signals with help from machine learning, and the device lights up.
The Konikore can provide a host of benefits, particularly as the world population grows and the environment is increasingly strained;
– In Agriculture: The device would be able to help farmers keep their crops and livestock healthy by sniffing out disease early and providing better advice on localised chemical use. It could also monitor the air we breathe and inform us on a number of wellness markers — a huge step forward for preventative medicine.
– Safety: The Konikore is more effective, safer and faster solutions for detecting biological hazards, and spotting chemical and explosive threats.
– Healthcare: pioneering features that make aircraft security possible could be applied in healthcare for disease detection. The company says the technology is being adapted for COVID-19 and future diseases.
WHY WE INVESTED
Extensive background in the sciences
Driving Koniku is a well-rounded team of Neuroscientists, Physicists, Molecular Biologist, Chemists, Engineers and Biohackers. The founder, Oshiorenoya Agabi (or just Osh) has spent more than 15 years’ working on neuro electronic interfaces in the industry and academia. Osh has been developing a technology that takes data from human smell to detect disease in human bodies for seventeen years.
Setting the pace for diversification in the tech industry
We were impressed to see that Koniku was founded by Osh, a Nigerian- born tech entrepreneur in 2013. In the world of tech, you typically have white folks as founders or even in the senior management ranks. Most Biotech founders do not look like Osh. Furthermore, his mission is aligned to our core vision; to revolutionize healthcare and wellness industries in Africa. Koniku’s innovative device is set to disrupt different sectors, especially healthcare all over the world, including Africa.
In less than two years, Koniku has raised $1m (£800,000) in funding and claims it is already making profits of $10m in deals with the security industry.
Airbus made a significant step by partnering with the Mobile Police Department, the canine squad from Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, and FBI bomb technicians to lead a series of field tests evaluating the performance of Konikore’s volatile and organic compound detection. Konikore exceeded expectations, showing a perfect score in sensitivity and specificity in detecting explosive threats.
After Covid-19, Agabi imagines the company pursuing other diseases insurance companies might be inclined to cover the cost of a test for, such as lung cancer. In the future, if successful, it could be used not just in homes, but for mass detection of diseases and pathogens in public spaces.
Koniku has had some award success from MIT Global Startup Workshop Business Plan Grand Prize, MIT Global Startup Workshop Elevator Pitch 1st Place, UCLA Create Conference Fast Pitch 1st Place Workshop help in Guatemala in March 2015, where they won 2 grand prizes.
Koniku was also one of five winners of the humanity prize of the Global Innovation Olympian in the World 2050.
‘Our desire is to be the reference point for all drug developers. It’s a simple statement but with this, we foresee a lot of exciting opportunities. Think, an app store or amazon web services for drug discovery. We are confident that our tools and delivery model will lower barriers to entry and put a significant dent in drug development cost’ – Osh Agabi
Koniku Inc. is located in Silicon Valley, CA, United States. Koniku Inc. has a co-founding team of 4 and 15 employees across all of its locations. There are companies in the Koniku Inc. corporate family. Primarily backed by SOS Ventures and IndieBio, the company’s investors also include SoftBank, Platform Capital, Halfcourt Ventures, Changi Airport and Airbus’s venture-capital arm.