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ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a webinar, while expressing serious concerns over the spread of various forms of Hepatitis, especially Hepatitis C virus (HCV),stressed timely and necessary action by the government and urged the media to create awareness among the masses on the critical situation.

They said that Pakistan has the second highest HCV prevalence in the world as approximately 11 million people are living with Hepatitis C in the country.

On average, 64 deaths occur daily due to the disease in Pakistan, while the disease is highly curable in most cases, lack of awareness and late diagnosis contribute to the high transmission and death rates in the country, they said.

Speaking at the National Hepatitis C Hackathon, organised by Teamup, SensusDx and Ferozsons Laboratories Limited at the National Incubation Center (NIC) in collaboration with Jazz and Ignite the two-day webinar aiming to find innovative solutions to curb the spread of viral hepatitis in Pakistan, they said that the government must take serious steps to check the spread of HCV, which is more lethal than Covid-19.

The chief guest at the event, Dr Faisal Sultan, SAPM for Health, sharing his views on the occasion, said "The challenge of the Viral Hepatitis epidemic is one that the government is committed to meeting through the Prime Minister's Program for Viral Hepatitis, which we are launching through our own resources despite the burden placed by of the Covid pandemic".

He said that the scale of this challenge will require the full participations of our citizens and the private sector.

He said, "I am encouraged by the formation of the Corporate Coalition for Hepatitis Elimination in Pakistan, and congratulate the more than 300 entrants of today's Hackathon for their spirit and innovative proposals. I am extremely hopeful that with the support of these young innovators, we can eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat in Pakistan."

A total of 340 applications from over 60 cities in three continents were received from the SMEs, startups, and medical experts under thematic areas of prevention, detection and management.

18 applications were shortlisted for pitching in the hackathon, out of which top six were shortlisted for the finale.

Dr Nausheen Hamid, parliamentary secretary for MNHSRC who was the guest of honor, said "Hepatitis C in particular is a critical healthcare problem in Pakistan, with prevalence at persistently high levels. It gives me immense pleasure to witness this unique event and the impactful ideas presented as solutions here. Opportunities like these can help us break barriers to innovation and accelerate the development of solutions to resolve problems at various fronts, not only at a national, but also at international level. I would like to congratulate Teamup and sponsors Abbott, Ferozsons Laboratories Limited, Pepsi and Nestle for organising and executing such an impactful event."

Attending the event as keynote speakers were Dr Annanya Shetty, Digital Connectivity and Solutions Manager Abbott, Osman Khalid Wahid, CEO Ferozsons Laboratories Limited, Dr Nausheen Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary for the MNHSRC, and Zouhair Khaliq, Co-Founder Teamup Group.

The platinum partners of the event were Abbott Pakistan and Ferozsons Laboratories Limited, while PepsiCo joined hands as gold partner and Nestle contributed as silver partner.

Cash prizes were awarded to the top three participants who were as follows: 1st Prize (Rs500,000)- Slosh AI: A Super App, building an AI-based ecosystem for creating health solutions, 2nd Prize (Rs300,000)- Nano-detectors: Using nano-particles based detection methods for effective diagnosis and monitoring of a viral infection, and 3rd Prize Rs200,000- Screen Pakistan: Developing a low-cost paper-based strip test for early Hep C detection

Slosh AI also bagged the Ferozsons Innovation Award and won a cash prize of Rs100,000.

The winners, in addition to the cash prizes, will have the opportunity to connect with relevant stakeholders required to practically implement their ideas including investors, public sector representatives and mentors/domain experts.

They will also get the opportunity to scale up with the support of donors and acceleration partners.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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