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Diagnosing business

Dr. Abdullah Kirumira
When Dr. Abdullah Kirumira left Uganda at age 19, his medical background soon took him all over the world.

But it was in Nova Scotia that he created an innovative diagnostic product to help serve the health industry worldwide and save lives.

In 1999, after conducting research at Acadia University, Dr. Kirumira launched a new company, BioMedica Diagnostics and a new “lab in a box” product to help test and monitor the risk of blood clot formation in patients.

Today, from its headquarters in Windsor, BioMedica’s 21 employees provide their “QuikCoag” product to health care companies in Europe, China, Japan and Southeast Asia.

The work allows Dr. Kirumira to fulfill his true passion—selling basic diagnostic tools at a reduced cost to small African hospitals.

“In Africa, doctors just guess as best they can to diagnose patients based on clinical information. A lot of people die unnecessarily for lack of a $1 or $2 test,” says Dr. Kirumira.

Their diagnostic kit includes a collection of ten small, portable instruments that help doctors diagnose approximately 95 common diseases.  It also includes some lower-end technologies now being phased out by multinationals in Europe and Asia, but still useful in other places.

By selling QuikCoag at a higher margin to the developed world, BioMedica uses the revenues to make the kit more affordable to the third world.

“Coming from Africa and from a medical family, I was aware of some of the challenges in diagnostics. It always motivated me to try to direct my research to solving problems,” he says.

He also says ACOA was instrumental in supporting his research, product development and expansion of their facilities.

“In the early days it would have been very, very difficult if ACOA had not supported us, and more recently, funding has been helping us compete successfully on the global market,” he explains.

These days, the company is busy working on the launch of another invention: the “I-Thrombo-check,” a portable device that will help military doctors on the battlefield measure the clotting status of patients during emergencies.

Though competing with huge multinationals worldwide is a continuing challenge, Dr. Kirumira and his team hope to become a model for promoting both the diagnostic industry and meaningful work in rural areas of the region.

Using innovation to build jobs at home while serving needs abroad—now that’s thinking outside the box.

Published April 5, 2012