Glasgow team to lead project developing diagnostics for Sub-Saharan Africa

An international project led by Glasgow University researchers aims to provide Sub-Saharan Africa with portable, reliable and affordable methods to diagnose diseases.


The five-year Digital Innovations and Diagnostics for Infectious Diseases in Africa project (Didida), involves 14 partners from Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and Italy. It is supported by €6m (£5.2m) from the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme and €2m (£1.75m) from the UK Research and Innovation fund. 

The project will develop a graduate school in Sub-Saharan Africa with a cohort of 16 PhD students, drawn from areas including digital innovations, social science and healthcare economics. Cohort events will provide this new generation of researchers with the tools to become leading contributors in the fight against diseases in Africa.

The students will be part of a team which aims to develop innovations to improve the healthcare pathways of individuals in low-resource, under-served rural communities using digital medicine and mobile diagnostics.

Communicable diseases - severe respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrhoea, malaria, and tuberculosis - account for nearly 80 per cent of the total burden of infectious diseases in Africa, killing over six million people every year.  

Over the next five years, the Dididia team will develop improved diagnostic tools for infectious diseases in rural areas, building on previous research and development partnerships led from Glasgow University’s James Watt School of Engineering. 

Professor Jon Cooper, of Glasgow University’s James Watt School of Engineering, is the project’s principal investigator.

“Didida is a multidisciplinary project that combines health research, socio-economic studies and digital innovation leading to new impacts in clinical diagnostics and engineering,” he said in a statement. “The project has a strong African involvement with an ambition to strengthen capacity across PhD training in institutes and organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa.” 

Glasgow researchers have already developed prototype versions of the system to diagnose conditions including malaria and schistosomiasis, and field-tested them in Uganda with support from local researchers and government. 


Dididia will expand on that research, enabling better care for patients by providing a simple, cost-effective mobile autonomous diagnostic solution capable of diagnosing multiple diseases, including malaria, in a single session. 

It will also link these conditions to non-communicable diseases including hypertension or diabetes, drawing upon expertise in the use of digital wearables for monitoring co-morbidities provided by Professor Frances Mair of Glasgow University’s School of Health & Wellbeing.

By linking the test to mobile phones, it will provide access to high-quality diagnostic assays in areas with limited health infrastructure.

Health workers will have access to the collected data to make treatment recommendations directly to patients and will also benefit from geographic information to guide local decision making. All technologies are based on open-source, transparent and easily deployable solutions such as m-Health for the mobile data application and DHIS2 health data infrastructure.

The project will build upon Sub-Saharan Africa’s strengths in mobile health services and payment, which covers millions of users. Didida will rely on the know-how of recognised operators for the implementation of the digital element of the project.

The consortium plans to implement the first platforms within African health infrastructures to collect and process test data in Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.

“Our aims include the creation of a user-friendly and low-cost digital diagnostic tool integrated on mobile phone platforms to improve healthcare,” said Prof Cooper. “The project will also impact on the decentralisation of health care in Europe and the United Kingdom.”