https://www.epo.org/en/node/rochelle-niemeijer?mtm_campaign=EIA2024&mtm_keyword=pressrelease&mtm_medium=press

Rochelle Niemeijer

​​AI-driven test kit to identify bacterial infections​

Category
Young Inventors Prize
Technical field
Medical technology
Company
​​Nostics BV​
​​By devising a portable test kit to quickly diagnose bacterial infections, Rochelle Niemeijer harnesses state-of-the-art medical technology to address the pressing issue of antimicrobial resistance.​

Winner of the Young Inventors Prize 2024

Global antibiotic consumption rates increased by 46% in the last two decades (2000 - 2018), as infections were often treated without adequate diagnosis. This is a key factor in Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), when the body no longer responds to general antibiotics, and pressing issue for humanity: The Lancet estimates that AMR resistance was directly responsible for 1.27 million global deaths in 2019.

In rural and low-income areas, the rigorous diagnostics needed to avoid antibiotic misuse are often not available or difficult to access. To overcome this challenge, Niemeijer has developed a point-of-care diagnostic test to provide quick detection and identification of bacteria. The technology combines a portable spectrometer with AI-powered digital software, with a single disposable cartridge that makes sample processing and measurement easy. The invention uses Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS), a technique that measures molecular vibrations triggered by laser light, to generate unique spectral patterns. These “bacterial fingerprints” are then deciphered using machine learning algorithms developed by AI specialists, enabling their identification and classification.

The technology can identify bacterial species within 15 minutes, without the need for expert users or expensive lab infrastructure on a first diagnosis step, making it faster and more convenient than sending the sample to a lab. As Niemeijer explains, “We hope to make an impact by providing diagnostic tools that can do a quick analysis of samples so that doctor can provide treatments based on the diagnosis at the point of care.” 

Changing direction

Once an aspiring medical practitioner, Rochelle Niemeijer focused on medical technology, particularly nanotechnology, following a volunteer trip to Cambodia. After being exposed to the harsh reality of healthcare without resources, adequate medicine and diagnostic equipment, she realised where she could make a difference. As Niemeijer says, “In the end, I think I was inspired there [Cambodia] by the lack of diagnostic tools, doctors, assistants; it was very clear that there was a lot to do and that a lot was missing.”

She obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree at the Delft University of Technology, where she studied nanobiology. After a research internship at a nanotechnology company, Niemeijer co-founded MedTech start-up Nostics to create advanced diagnostics solutions by using nanotechnology, photonics and machine learning.

Towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 

Niemeijer’s invention contributes to UN SDG 3 (good health and well-being) by providing convenient and accessible diagnostic tools. The invention also brings efficiency and clarity to patient care, promotes responsible use of germ-fighting medicines, averts antibiotic misuse, and improves disease monitoring.