“Our technology is revolutionising the way governments, NGOs, and pharmaceutical companies combat and address epidemics in Africa and Asia. My driving force is impact, and I believe that our technology is making a tangible difference in the field.”
From product development to healthtech entrepreneur
EPCON's CEO Caroline embarked on a life-changing career shift about a year and a half ago. With a background in product development and economics, she hadheld various positions in product design and innovation. However, after the passing of her father, a renowned heart surgeon in Belgium, Caroline felt the need to re-evaluate her life's purpose. She had always been drawn to the world of health tech, and it was during her time as the general manager at the digital innovation agency Bagaar that she discovered her passion for this field.
Finding the right fit
Fueled by her newfound desire to make an impact, Caroline decided to start her own healthtech start-up. However, after six months, she realised that her initial idea wasn't the right fit. It was then that she began contemplating whether launching her own start-up was necessary. With her experience and resources, she wondered if there were existing start-ups seeking someone with her profile. Imec, a research and innovation hub, provided her with a list of companies in need of both capital and were open for additional management team members. EPCON immediately caught her attention.
Preventing the transmission of tuberculosis
When asked to explain what mapping health risks on a population level entails, Caroline points to a project initiated in Pakistan to combat tuberculosis (TB). While TB is under control in many developed countries, it remains a significant problem in developing nations, claiming 1.6 million lives worldwide annually. The challenge lies in identifying patients. Currently, health workers go door-to-door, questioning residents about their symptoms. EPCON's revolutionary technology identifies high-risk neighbourhoods, enabling health workers to focus their efforts where they matter most. Through a similar project in South Africa, the start-up tripled the number of TB diagnoses in targeted communities, ensuring that more people receive treatment and prevented further transmission.
Creative utilisation of data
Although the tangible outcomes of testing, diagnosis, and treatment are apparent, EPCON’s underlying technology relies on complex AI algorithms to precisely map health risks. Caroline explains that the platform combines various data sources, including case notifications, socio-demographic information, vaccination rates, literacy rates, employment rates, population density, road infrastructure, and proximity to healthcare facilities. The team also considers unconventional indicators of poverty, such as nighttime illumination, which can help identify disadvantaged areas. By analysing the relationships between these data points, EPCON empowers governments and NGOs to be more vigilant and take proactive measures where necessary.