Grad student team creates speedy malaria detector

As part of this year’s Microsoft’s Imagine Cup competition, a team composed of graduate students across the country has developed a mobile smartphone application that can detect malaria in a blood sample.

Team Lifelens started the ambitious project last November when the theme “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems” was announced, reports.

Tristan Gibeau, a UCF computer engineering graduate student who developed the software, is fully aware of the potential impact his team’s project might have on a global scale.

"Right now, current [malaria] testing is not very good," Gibeau said, according to "It's very, very clunky."

According to the World Health Organization, one in five childhood deaths in Africa are due to malaria.  Early detection is considered a key to shortening the duration of the infection and preventing further complications, including death.

Unlike current malaria testing technology that detects malaria only 40 percent of the time, Lifelen’s technology has a 90 percent accuracy rate in addition to costing less and taking a fraction of the time, according to

The Lifelen’s technology works by equipping a magnifying lens over a cell phone’s image sensor. The lens, in conjunction with the phone’s app, can detect malarial parasites from a blood sample within two seconds.  

Team Lifelens is hoping to use this technology to also test an individual for sickle cell anemia in time for the World Finals, which occur in May, reports.  

The Microsoft Imagine Cup competition was founded nine years ago as a way to band students together in their quest to foster innovative technological ideas with the hope of getting exposure and resources to further fund their projects.