HOW IT ALL STARTED
It was the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and his diagnostic interest that got Dr. Rudi Pauwels back to Africa, in his capacity of Founder and CEO of Biocartis. After having spent the better part of his life in laboratories, he wanted to observe firsthand how the world is dealing with outbreaks of that scale in the 21th century. He witnessed the best of humanity, the local healthcare workers, international community, risking their lives and stigmatization by their communities. But he also identified the gaps and needs for rapid, accurate and easy-to-use diagnostics, close to the affected communities. Epidemic preparedness helps to reduce the peak burden on health care infrastructure and ultimately, to diminish the overall caseload and health impact. This is contrasted to reactive approaches that are fire-fighting for an already significant problem.
On his flight back home, he started to make a sketch on a napkin of what would turn out to be the first generation Mobile Lab. With the help of a series of early believers among which passionate collaborators, sponsors and technology providers, the sketch became reality in less than two years.
Driven by the motto “Vision without execution is hallucination”, he created the Praesens Fund in 2016, under the Belgian King Baudoin Foundation. Its name is related to the Latin-derived word praesens, and means ‘being here now, making an impact’. We would like to extend our special thanks to Dr Susana Zanello, a NASA scientist who shared Rudi’s passion to improve the human condition on earth and beyond, and helped lay the first building blocks. Together with Mr. Lee Lennox, they designed the Praesens logo which symbolizes the care for our planet and our people who are under threat of infectious diseases.
As the project entered the next stage in 2017, Dr. Rudi Pauwels founded the Praesens Foundation based in Belgium.
The Board of Directors is composed of Dr. Rudi Pauwels, Prof. dr. Peter Piot and Steven Pauwels. The day-to-day running of the Foundation is in the hands of Steven Pauwels (Executive Director) and Aurélie Cappuyns (Programme Manager).
The Praesens Foundation is operating at the intersection of global health technology innovation and social impact.
Our team believes innovation should be at the level of populations, and technology can only be successful when it reaches the communities across the world and increases access among the vulnerable populations, irrespective of their location and resources. Our work focuses on a more holistic and integrated approach: not only building the autonomous mobile lab but also offering safe operating procedures, training, innovative technologies on board, etc.
Our objective is to turn innovative ideas into real-world solutions. The solutions created by the Praesens Foundation should improve surveillance and rapid deployment in case of disease outbreaks in areas regularly affected by epidemic and endemic diseases. We want to drive change and make countries safer from epidemics - by working not only for but in particular with the local partners- with the aim to create more sustainable solutions and further expand the local healthcare capabilities.
WHAT WE DO
Building local capacity for better global health
Past and recent disease outbreaks (e.g. SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika, Dengue) have shown that infectious diseases constitute to affect lives of people while also representing national, economic and health security threats that can quickly evolve into global health crises. In essence, current (international) responses are mostly reactive in nature, often operating in ‘crisis’ mode with little or no preparedness, standard procedures, trained personnel or appropriate equipment and tools, resulting in both human and economic devastation.
The Praesens Foundation is therefore developing, implementing and providing easy to train and use solutions that contribute to better epidemic preparedness, early warning and rapid response for existing and emerging infectious diseases and medicine in general. We work closely together with partners to provide them with effective diagnostic tools and to develop innovative approaches to deliver (mobile) health services to those in need wherever they are. We invest in developing new tools to prevent and monitor infectious diseases that impose the greatest burden and carry epidemic or pandemic risks.
We are focusing on key areas to improve laboratory testing capacity and epidemic preparedness. These include: real-time disease tracking systems, laboratory networks and training rapid response teams to prevent or react to disease outbreaks.
With the lack of field-applicable technologies, we have recognized the need for comprehensive and sustainable technologies that local health workers can use in the long-term. Our aim is to provide capabilities for fast ramp up of diagnostic testing both in central lab settings and at the points of need.
In order to achieve this, we are collecting funds and applying for grants for research, development and implementation of mobile and modular response capacities and technologies that are rapidly deployable in case of public health emergencies.
We believe the most important public health problems can be solved through collaborative efforts and we therefore develop interdisciplinary research collaborations across science, humanities, social science and innovation teams.