European Inventor Award 2017 - University of Vienna Alumni as finalist


Malaria is one of the ten deadliest diseases of our time and is diagnosed in only 10% of all cases. Changing the paradigm, Dutch haematologist Jan van den Boogaart and Austrian biochemist Oliver Hayden developed the first automated, computer-based blood test for malaria. Combining medicine and information sciences, the test is based on a computer algorithm that detects infections with unprecedented accuracy. Now the team is nominated for the European Inventor Award 2017.

Prior to the invention, modern medicine had no automated blood test that could accurately detect malaria, the infectious tropical disease that kills one person every 12 seconds. As the key to success, Jan van den Boogaart and Oliver Hayden at Siemens Healthineers pioneered a data-driven approach. Instead of looking for the presence of malaria pathogens in the blood, they used information technology to detect the disease's damaging effects, as indicated by key blood parameters, such as lowered platelet counts.

Van den Boogaart was inspired by talking to a colleague from South Africa in 2008, who had noticed similar changes in the haemograms - or blood profile tests - of several malaria patients. Viewed in isolation, none of these factors were sufficient for a diagnosis - but a combination of 30 parameters revealed a "data fingerprint" that identified malaria with 97% certainty.

With Hayden contributing key statistical analysis, the inventors filed a European patent application in 2011, and the two connected with a Siemens biosensors research group in Vienna to develop a malaria-specific algorithm for the company's blood testing system. Currently, van den Boogaart and Hayden are expanding the "data fingerprint" method to detect other diseases in blood samples, including leukaemia.

Read more on the innovative rapid blood test for malaria.

About the European Inventor Award

The driving force behind the innovation process is people - people with a passion for discovery. Without their inquisitive minds, their quest for new ideas and their creativity, there would be no inventive spirit and no progress. As one of the most prestigious competitions of its kind, the European Inventor Award pays tribute to the creativity of inventors the world over, who use their technical, scientific and intellectual skills to make a real contribution to technological progress and economic growth and so improve people's daily lives.

About the Inventors

Van den Boogaart studied at H.B.O. Eindhoven, earning a bachelor's degree in microbiology in 1980 and a second bachelor's in clinical chemistry a year later. He began his career at the hospital laboratory of H.B.O. Eindhoven before joining Bayer as a field technician in 1991. His unit in Bayer later became part of Siemens Healthineers. 

Having earned his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Vienna in 1999, Hayden conducted postdoctoral research in nanotechnology at Harvard. He also earned an MBA in Business Administration from the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg in 2011.