South African healthtech Vula Mobile inks deal with Novartis to boost eyecare services

SOUTH AFRICA – South African e-health startup Vula Mobile has partnered global medicines company Novartis to enhance quality eye care services across Africa.

Vula Mobile is an online platform founded by Dr William Mapham which hosts a network of primary health workers and medical specialists via an Android and iOS app.

The medical referral app offers forms for burns, family medicine, cardiology, dermatology, ENT, family medicine, HIV, ophthalmology, oncology, neurosurgery, internal medicine and orthopedics with approval from the Department of Health.

The partnership with Novartis includes a pilot programme in Namibia and Botswana focusing on eye health with plans to expand the collaboration in other countries across the continent in other therapeutic areas.

As part of the three-year agreement, Vula Mobile will work with Novartis to provide technical and strategic insights for a sustainable working model of the medical referral platform.

The programme will also be integrated into the Novartis Biome SSA Community as an opportunity to further build capabilities of healthcare workers.

The interventions will help utilize the limited resources by connecting primary healthcare workers with patients to address the scarcity of general eye care specialists in Sub-Saharan Africa as there are 2.7 ophthalmologists per million population.

Novartis is committed to actively engage patients and healthcare systems, enable broad and fast access to innovation as well as improve health outcomes,” assured Racey Muchilwa, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at Novartis.

The partnership will also certify primary care facilities in providing service for adequate eye care, advance the quality of referrals to specialist centres and support health administrators in making data driven decisions at a health system level.

Additionally, Primary health workers like nurses, general practitioners and allied health workers will use Vula to connect asynchronously to specialists on call to discuss their patients.

The impact vision impairment can have on the quality of life is a crucial motivator for the management of eye health including the burden it can produce for patients, for caregivers and on the society.

Recently, Novartis gained target-specific access to next-generation AAV capsids from Voyager Therapeutics that could be used for three diseases of the central nervous system with options for two additional targets.

The company seeks to apply its expertise in neurological diseases that manifest in deep brain regions, where commonly used vectors have not been shown, to effectively target and penetrate gene therapy.

Moreover, the capsids may help deliver therapies to previously intractable regions of the brain and overcome barriers that have hindered development of gene therapies for neurological diseases.

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