Bringing prenatal care to pregnant women living in isolated areas


Ana Luisa Neves accepting her prize

A new finger prick test to bring prenatal care to pregnant women wins second prize in Imperial's pioneering entrepreneurial programme for women.

Ana Luisa Neves (final year PhD student) has won the 2nd prize in Imperial College’s flagship women entrepreneurship programme Althea-Imperial for her prototype finger prick test that brings prenatal care to pregnant women living in isolated areasAna’s team which included Andrea Rodriguez-Martinez (PhD student with CSM) pitched the idea for a single device to measure four health indicators for pregnant women, specifically designed to be used in remote and underdeveloped areas with minimal knowledge and training.

The Althea-Imperial Programme is a unique collaboration between Imperial and the Althea Foundation, a social venture fund. Now in its third year, the initiative is designed to inspire a new generation of women in science, technology and business. Ana speaks below about how her team plans to develop their idea further and how the £6000 prize money will help. 

The idea

Our prototype is a revolutionary finger prick test that will finally bring prenatal care to pregnant women living in isolated areas, where they most lack it. Combining our mixed backgrounds (medicine, bioengineering and prototype engineering development), we created a device that performs the multiple tests recommended in pregnancy (i.e. glycaemia, HIV, Syphilis and Hepatitis B) – in a single drop of blood. This all-in-one device is an economic and effective option for the early identification of diseases with known impact on pregnancy, thus allowing a timely treatment and better health outcomes for both mother and baby. 

How did the idea come about?

Four years ago, I was working as a volunteer doctor in a small village in Mozambique, in a project to empower pregnant women by providing them relevant medical information on their health, and their babies' health. According to the World Organisation of Health, every single woman should be tested at least for four medical conditions (glycemia, hepatitis B, syphylis and HIV). This screening improves health outcomes for mothers and babies - but also reduces healthcare system costs. 

Back there, I realised that pregnant women did not have access to prenatal testing: they would either not get tested at all, or get their blood collected, transported for long distances and finally tested in suboptimal conditions. So my question was, what if we could find an efficient and affordable way to bring prenatal care to these women?

What happens next? 

Althea-Imperial funding will be critical to secure intellectual property and to strengthen relationships with industry experts to develop our prototype.

Watch the interview with Ana and the other prize winners at the Althea Imperial 2017 final


Kathryn Johnson

Kathryn Johnson
Department of Surgery & Cancer

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