By Michael Gwarisa
glance, she is just an ordinary ever smiling Chinese lady. Her floriated apparel
resembles her deep roots and affinity for her Chinese culture. But beneath that
non fading smile and youthful look is a tough, hardworking and Innovative
is Professor Helen Lee, founder and president of Diagnosis for the Real World (DRW)
a high technology innovation company which has invented a revolutionary and
life changing technology, the SAMBA 2 that tests and reports HIV and viral load
results within very few minutes, 70 minutes to be precise. The technology is
already in Zimbabwe with the latest consignment of 10 SAMBA machines which are
specifically meant for diagnosing and testing paediatric HIV having dispatched
around the country’s 10 provinces.
reputation precedes her judging by the massive research and literature she has
published around the areas of health, HIV and AIDS, scientific innovation among
others. To date she has authored over 1500 academic papers around science and
been born in China, Prof Lee emerged to be a brilliant science student who
later in life enrolled some of the most respected colleges including
take you through the SAMBA journey. It all began 20 year ago when I worked in a
large multinational company in Chicago and I was head of the business unit for
the DNA diagnostics.
learnt the power of DNA diagnostics. There are certain diseases which you must
use diagnosis of the diseases organism itself for example Ebola, the patient
has symptoms and its very generic and you need to know there and there what
kind of diseases it is so the only way is really to look at the virus of the
bacteria itself,” said Dr Lee.
however said looking for a particular virus in huge human body with so many
cells can become a challenge and there is need to separate it for the purposes
of detection and only technology can do that. Through the SAMBA 2 machines, a
timely diagnosis of the virus is guaranteed.
me 20 years ago, I am in Abbot a huge multinational company and i am just a
Chinese women, a scientists running around with all those big executives. We
developed something very nice, I could really see it is important to diagnose
the diseases where the diseases originates.
spoke to my boss who was a very good salesman then and said lets create a
business unit called second world diagnostics because infections disease need
it be diagnosed at the place of origin immediately and eliminated. So I said
let’s start the business unit and develop a technology which can do this.
few of her colleagues Helen decided to leave the comfort of the American
corporate world and went to Cambridge University.
business unit 20 years ago had a budget of US$20 million per year, you might
think that’s a lot of money but I tell you it is not. And when we went to
Cambridge we had exactly US$300, 000 for three years from the World Health
Organisation (WHO), we walked into this empty lab.
the years we raised about 90 million always from charity and public
organisation so that we do not raise from debenture capital because they would
just force us to make profit. Don’t think I am against profit but that is not
just about. And speaking about profit, Diagnostics of real world commit itself to 15 percent of profit in low
middle income countries and in other countries we make as much profit as we
can,” said Prof Lee.
Speaking about the
SAMBA, Prof Lee said it is just a small gadget the size of a coffee making
machine. The machine is highly air-conditioned and can be used by anyone
provided one would have gone through some form of training on how to use it.