Alum earns entrepreneurship award for startup

When Asan­terabi Malima was 15, his father suf­fered a fatal heart attack at 57. He had been an accom­plished scholar and min­ister in the Tan­zanian gov­ern­ment. “Everyone in my family is in pol­i­tics,” said Malima, PhD’13, now a post­doc­toral researcher in Northeastern’s Center for High Rate Nanoman­u­fac­turing.

In 2012, he and fellow North­eastern alumni Cihan Yilmaz, PhD’13, and Jaydev Upponi, PhD’12, founded Biolom. They started the biotech­nology firm to com­mer­cialize a device they had devel­oped at the center under the guid­ance of its director Ahmed Bus­naina, the William Lin­coln Smith Chair and pro­fessor in the Col­lege of Engi­neering.

Malima’s work has received sig­nif­i­cant recog­ni­tion. In June, as part of Mass­a­chu­setts’ cel­e­bra­tion of Africa Week, Gov. Deval Patrick pre­sented him with the Entre­pre­neurial Award, which hon­ored his con­tri­bu­tion to the state’s eco­nomic well-​​being and vitality. But not only does Biolom promise to improve the health and job prospects of the state’s res­i­dents, it also has the poten­tial to cure dis­ease in Malima’s native Tan­zania, where cer­vical cancer is predominant.

Biolom’s device con­sists of four dis­tinct areas, each of which can be opti­mized to detect a spe­cific biomarker—such as those that indi­cate dif­ferent types of cancer or car­dio­vas­cular dis­ease. With cer­vical cancer, a device like this could be invalu­able for its ability to quickly and inex­pen­sively turn around diag­noses when the cancer is first taking root.

The team orig­i­nally devel­oped the device to detect col­orectal cancer, but it piv­oted to focus on liver cancer after an exhaus­tive field survey of clin­i­cians, researchers, and mem­bers of the phar­ma­ceu­tical industry.

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