Congratulations to Israel’s ZzappMalaria for winning the XPRIZE AI for Good Challenge

Brought to you by Start-Up Nation Central

Israel-based startup with an app that helps eradicate malaria-bearing mosquitos wins $3 million award.

June 28, 2021 – Tel-Aviv, Israeli – Start-Up Nation Central congratulates Israeli startup ZzappMalaria on winning the IBM Watson XPRIZE “AI for Good” Challenge. The company that operates an artificial intelligence-powered system for planning, executing, and monitoring large-scale malaria elimination campaigns, beat out 150 other contenders and took home a $3 million grand prize.

ZzapMalaria’s team. (Photo courtesy of ZzappMalaria)


“Defeating Malaria was one of the first achievements that enabled Israel to come into existence. It was the result of science and creativity, but mostly of faith. Faith that it is possible and faith that it needs to be done,” said ZzappMalaria’s CEO Arnon Houri-Yafin. “Our company employs advanced technology to enable similar eradication of the disease in tropical climates and under complex circumstances.”

According to WHO statistics from 2019, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide, leading to the death of 409,000 people, with children under the age of five accounting for 274,000 (67%) of its victims.

ZzappMalaria, which was founded in 2017 as a spin-off of Sight Diagnostics, developed an end-to-end solution that seeks to eliminate the disease by targeting malaria-bearing mosquitos for larviciding operations. The mobile app harnesses a predictive algorithm that processes satellite imagery, climate, and topography data to tailor optimal malaria-elimination interventions for prone locations and ensures their execution. The company leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to constantly improve its operations, recently collaborating with IBM on a system that predicts the impact of weather on mosquito populations. ZzappMalaria’s technology was designed to work in areas without internet connectivity, and on low-cost phones, which are common in developing regions that suffer most from the disease.

Star-Up Nation Central empowers Israeli innovation that seeks to solve global health problems

In 2019 Start-Up Nation Central facilitated a business engagement between ZzappMalaria and Goodbye Malaria, an African organization that aims to eradicate malaria in Mozambique with a $20 million commitment from the Gates Foundation and the Global Fund.

The ZzappMalaria App. (Photo courtesy of ZzappMalaria)


“Start-Up Nation Central is proud to support and empower the work of ZzappMalaria and all other Israeli companies that harness deep technology to overcome global challenges,” Eliran Elimelech, Start-Up Nation Central’s Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships said. “Start-Up Nation Central connects global players to Israeli innovative solutions, developing partnerships and collaborations to create business platforms on the ground in both developed and emerging markets.”

“The digital health sector continues to flourish in Israel, which is home to approximately 700 innovative companies, as well as technology hubs, research and development centers, incubators, and multinational corporations that are active in this space. Within the ecosystem, almost 50% of digital health companies utilize artificial intelligence in their solutions. Furthermore, 90% of digital health companies that raised funds in 2020 were AI-driven companies, and most of the AI-driven companies were in the field of diagnostics and decision support, which provides essential tools for healthcare providers in numerous settings,” said Lena Rogovin, Senior Research Analyst and Sector Lead, Digital Health & Life Sciences at Start-Up Nation Central.

“We have consistently found in Start-Up Nation Central and its leaders Prof. Eugen Kandel and Wendy Singer a source for good advice, great connections and a sense of partnerships, with a belief that everything is possible at its foundation,” Houri-Yafin said.

The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE is a five-year global competition that aims to demonstrate how humans can collaborate with powerful artificial intelligence technologies to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing our world.

ZzappMalaria’s long road to victory

Thirty-four qualifying teams out of an initial 10,000 applicants, were compared by an independent judging panel across a set of performance categories, including technical performance, real-world impact, future impact, and ethics. These comparison scores were combined by an AI algorithm created and customized to propose a ranking of all teams. The ranking was presented within an interactive visualization to judges who then decided on the final list of top 10 teams for the semifinals. The semifinalist teams presented their solutions to the judges and live audience at TED headquarters in New York City, where the finalists were chosen by an independent judging panel made up of academics, NGO professionals, and venture capital industry professionals with deep expertise in AI and a variety of application backgrounds including healthcare, ethics, education, and more.

ZzappMalaria overcame two other finalists, Montreal-based mental health treatment personalization tool Aifred Health, and Marinus Analytics, a Pittsburgh-based company that helps law enforcement take on human trafficking by organized crime.

Start-Up Nation Central is the one-stop-gateway to the Israeli innovation ecosystem. Established in 2013, it is a non-profit organization that leverages its knowledge, resources, and network of key industry and government ties to connect innovative Israeli technological solutions with multinational corporations, governments, investors, and NGOs from around the world.

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