The winner of this year’s MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition is going after one world’s most deadly diseases: malaria.

“What if I told you I could save 1 million lives, every year, with just refrigerator magnets and a laser pointer?” John Lewandowski, a PhD student in mechanical engineering, posited during his winning pitch for Disease Diagnostics Group (DDG).

DDG’s device — called “RAM,” for Rapid Assessment of Malaria — uses these magnets to align, and lasers to illuminate, the iron-based crystals left behind by malarial parasites; this approach can determine infection level using a single drop of blood, in one minute, with 94 percent accuracy. This offers drastic improvement over traditional methods, where clinicians manually detect parasites using a microscope, offering results in about an hour with around 50 percent accuracy.

Read more about the MIT $100K competition, including summaries of all eight finalists.

Many faculty and students at MIT are tackling the challenges of malaria. In this profile from our Highlights for High School Chemistry in Action series, Jacquin C. Niles, an Associate Professor of Biological Engineering, describes his work on the cause and prevention of malaria.