At present Flow produces about 20,000 test kits a year for $3 per kit. That's still expensive in poor countries where malaria is on the rise, but compares favorably to the $5 to $8 each for the five-to-six-pill course of medicine. In the absence of good testing, misdiagnosis and mistreatment of malaria has been a persistent problem. In much of Africa, any fever is considered a sign of malaria when one of a variety of other diseases could be at work. As a result, people often die of the non-malarial disease or remain sick. Indiscriminate use of chloroquine and other drug therapies have also reduced their effectiveness against malaria.

"My hope is that we will be able to diagnose the disease more precisely and therefore treat it more effectively," says Makler. "Clinicians are making the diagnosis by physical examination. They are wrong 50 percent of the time."

Adds Piper: "This parasite has kicked our butts for as long as we have stood upright. So doing something is important to all of us. You have to be inspired by the basic problems of how this thing lives before you can get at how we can kill it."

Makler isn't sure malaria will ever be wiped out. Martin confesses to more than a bit of awe at the parasite's ability to adapt and persevere. The three Reedies hope to help stem the tide, though, with the kind of unconventional thinking they developed in college.

Says Martin: "We all have problem-solving instincts, a reckless tendency to go against the grain when you believe you are right, and an inability to see and make expedient economic decisions. A willingness to turn away and start in a new direction in search of a new challenge. These are Reed values that we all share." R

Robert Piper '85

Steve Dodge is a freelance writer who lives in Portland. This is his first article for Reed.

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