Local Businesses Showcase Work in Africa (Photos)

One million people die worldwide from malaria each year in an increasing problem that seems impossible to solve.

But in Rockville on Monday, Nov. 18, one man stood up in front of a crowded room and said confidently that his small, local biotechnology company is making strides in the clinical testing of a vaccine to prevent the disease from taking lives.

This was just one of several businesses and organizations from Montgomery County that presented during panel discussions at the “Doing Business in Africa” Global Trade Forum at the Montgomery County campus of Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman of Danya International talks about monitoring TB medication compliance during the "Doing Business in Africa" forum at the Montgomery County Campus of Johns Hopkins University Nov. 18.

Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman of Danya International talks about monitoring TB medication compliance during the “Doing Business in Africa” forum at the Montgomery County Campus of Johns Hopkins University Nov. 18.

Sanaria, a Rockville-based biotechnology company dedicated to the production of a protective vaccine against malaria caused by the pathogen Plasmodium falciparum, is one of three finalists in the running to win the Emerging Business of the Year Award from the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s important to understand where you’re working and not just jump in there,” said Dr. Peter Billingsley, senior scientist at Sanaria. “We need to make that personal connection in order to help them going forward.”

Billingsly, along with Dr. Lew Barker of Rockville-based Aeras Global, John Doherty of Germantown-based Earth Networks, Dr. Jeff Hoffman of Silver Spring-based Danya International, Vince Onuigbo of Germantown-based Hughes Network Solutions, and more than two dozen other presenters gave advice during afternoon panel discussions, facilitating conversations about how local companies can make a difference and participate in African business affairs.

“We realized that cell phones were surprisingly used wildly in Africa,” said Hoffman, CEO of Danya International, giving advice on how to find creative solutions to problems abroad.

John Doherty of Germantown-based Earth Networks speaks on monitoring and predicting major weather events in Africa.

John Doherty of Germantown-based Earth Networks speaks on monitoring and predicting major weather events in Africa.

“Because of this, we decided to do a pilot study using mobile video phones to monitor Tuberculosis medication compliance. Nokia donated the phones and we were able to conduct a study showing that patients could actually take a clip of themselves and send it to a clinic where the nurses could then look and monitor,” Hoffman said.

Also in a presentation about prevention, John Doherty, Global Development Officer for Earth Networks, formerly WeatherBug, gave a glimpse into how businesses on the edge of technological advances can expand into markets in Africa.

Doherty pointed at a dark map with a few glowing circles, explaining that before his company started looking into business in Africa, there was not an effective way to discover and warn the country of dangerous weather events.

“Natural disasters are increasing around the world and there’s a massive need to monitor and warn,” Doherty said. “There are country’s out there that are thirsting for new approaches to their problems, we just need to take action.”

Find more information about the businesses and organizations including in the Global Trade Forum here.

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Valerie Bonk

About Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media (MCM).

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