The SANBio–BioFISA II Programme is fortunate to have female project leaders supervising some of the grants in their funding portfolio. In this profile we focus on Khilona Radia, the co-founder of Antrum Biotech, a University of Cape Town spin-off specialising in Healthcare Innovation. Antrum is the private sector partner on the flagship project co-funded by the BioFISA II Programme dealing with validation and integration of a new test to improve diagnosis of tuberculous meningitis, a project in partnership with University of Cape Town, College of Medicine, Malawi, and the Biomedical Research Training Institute, Zimbabwe. The long-term goal of this project is to reduce global mortality due to tuberculosis meningitis (TBM). Current microbiological and molecular tests are unsatisfactory, being frequently unable to detect the bacteria. A new high performing, rapid test has been developed for the diagnosis of TB in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that takes approximately 1 hour using standard technology available in diagnostic labs.
Khilona brings her strong business and investment experience to the consortium, and is a mentor and continually supports the career development and continued learning for members of the consortium. Khilona has a banking background and has carved her global expertise in leading innovative projects from retail banking to contact centres, and business process outsourcing. Prior to starting Antrum, she was based in London and Europe, working across Consumer Goods, Healthcare, and Retail, helping clients with their strategic, operational, and technological challenges.
Her passion is to create solutions that have social impact. She believes in the power of collaboration, and supports projects and businesses that aim to bring a positive impact to the world. Furthermore she’s an avid enthusiast of lifelong learning. Through Khilona’s leadership, Antrum Biotech was the recipient of the prestigious NSTF Award that nationally recognises research leading to innovation by an SME. Antrum is an example of a company that is successfully transforming local scientific excellence into global impact. Having received initial funding support from the Industrial Development Corporation, the company has recently secured investment from a private equity company specialising in the healthcare sector.
The impact of the flagship project managed by the consortium will be the development of an accurate rapid test for extra pulmonary TB that will fill a major unmet need in TB diagnostics, reduce healthcare-related costs, and save lives.