Every year, respiratory diseases cause over 2.5 million deaths globally. With the prominence of COVID-19 and its devastating effect on healthy lungs, this number will likely go up. Yet, the stethoscope, which is the first-line diagnostics tool for respiratory diseases, hasn’t changed in 200 years. It is prone to misdiagnosis because it is dependent on the quality of the doctor’s hearing and cannot detect low-frequency sounds. On the other hand, medical imaging devices like CT scans or MRIs use radiation, which could be harmful to humans in the long-term and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If we have learnt anything from the current pandemic, it is that respiratory diseases can be managed and cured but early diagnosis is critical to successful treatment. Early diagnosis of respiratory diseases needs to be cheap, accessible and affordable as a mobile phone.
Tambua Health is working to solve this global problem.
Tambua Health is the inventor of a patent-pending technology called T-sense. T-sense generates images of lungs by detecting the vibration of sound as air moves in and out of the lungs. It is able to do this by using sensor arrays placed on the back of the patient. These sensor arrays which are really just tiny non-invasive microphones that can pick up even the tiniest sounds. They look like this:
With these sensors, T-sense can generate dynamic images of the lung like this using sound imaging.
Using spatial distribution algorithms that have been trained against the company’s proprietary database of lung sound images, Tambua’s T-sense can detect healthy and unhealthy lungs with a high degree of accuracy.
Once a doctor or other health professional has this device, which can be manufactured for less than $100, all they need is a mobile phone to crunch the data. A smartphone with a basic internet connection can crunch all the data from Tambua’s devices online or offline and give results with the same accuracy as MRI and XRay machines which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and require trained personnel to operate. Tambua’s T-Sense is truly revolutionary for the treatment of respiratory diseases globally.
This product which has filed over a dozen patents is being piloted as a diagnostics tool in 267 clinics and has generated tens of thousands of dollars in monthly recurring revenue from these pilots. Customers include institutions like Stanford and MIT who are using Tambua’s devices for COVID research. In addition, the company has received about hundreds of pre-orders from health institutions across the United States.
You can watch this great video from Google Tensor Flow to learn more about the science behind Tambua’s groundbreaking invention.
Lewis Wanjohi, Daniel Gathigai and Eric Kirima are the founders of Tambua Health.
Tambua’s founding team brings together a unique blend of deep technical expertise required to develop products like the T-Sense. Lewis Wanjohi was previously an engineer at IBM Research and MIT Media Lab where he was a spectral analysis researcher. Daniel Gathigai holds a BSc. in Mathematics and Computer Science and has almost a decade of experience developing mobile and web applications in Kenya while Eric Kirima, Tambua’s VP of Machine Learning also brings a wealth of software engineering expertise to the team, particularly in managing, interpreting and relaying large data sets and signals.
This team is not new to high tech entrepreneurship. Two years before founding Tambua Health, they founded Micronet which uses analogue TV waves signal processing, machine learning and electronics to provide Wi-fi in rural areas in Central Kenya. They also layered bandwidth management and dynamic billing system on it. Today, the product is still used by 20,000 users and has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.
In January this year, Tambua Health was admitted into the prestigious Y-Combinator Winter 2020 class helping it cement its vision to scale globally.
Tambua perfectly aligns with our mission. At Future Africa, we believe that innovators like Lewis Wanjohi and his team can turn Africa’s challenges into global business opportunities. The Tambua team is turning their innovation inspired by resource constraints associated with respiratory health diagnosis and treatment in Africa into a business opportunity that can be exported globally.
We welcome Lewis, Daniel and Eric to the Future Africa community.