App saves new lives

More than 100,000 children a year die from jaundice, but Picterus aims to change that

Photo courtesy of Nordic Startup Bits
Picterus is an inexpensive way to determine whether a child’s skin color is indicative of jaundice, with potentially lifesaving results worldwide.

Julie Vissgren

The treatment of jaundice is both simple and painless, but as many as 114,000 newborns die from the disease every year, mainly due to a lack of diagnostic equipment. To solve this problem, a relatively inexpensive tool that can provide accurate diagnostics needed to be created.

Norwegian app Picterus
Picterus has created this solution in the form of an app. The app works by analyzing the color calibration in the chest of a child. The app takes a picture of a child and analyzes the color data of the child’s skin to show if the child is suffering from jaundice.

The team behind the app includes Lise Lyngses Randberg, a professor of biomedical optics and photonics; Anders Aune, a pediatrician; and Gunnar Vartdal, an engineer.

Lack of solutions in developing countries
The idea for the app came when Aune was hospitalized on a visit to Tanzania and learned that the country had a jaundice epidemic due to a lack of diagnostics and treatment. The main reason for this was that the diagnostic devices on the market cost around $8,000 a piece—far too expensive for hospitals in emerging economies like Tanzania to afford.

Aune contacted Professor Randeberg. Vartdal joined the project in the spring of 2014. Since then, the team has worked to obtain funding and get their app onto the market.

“This application has the potential to save more than 100,000 newborn lives each year and prevent 63,000 from having permanent brain damage, mainly in the poorest parts of the world,” claims Vartdal.

Help also needed in developed countries
In Western countries, parents who go home from the hospital within 72 hours after giving birth are responsible for monitoring jaundice in their child.

“In addition to providing the poorer parts of the world access to a more budget-friendly way to diagnose jaundice, we would of course make the newborn period a little safer for parents in developed countries as well, since they can use our app to safely monitor jaundice in their children,” says Vartdal.

An initial pilot study was conducted with promising results, and Picterus is currently doing a clinical study on the technology that makes them able to diagnose jaundice.

This article was originally posted in Norwegian on Innomag and then posted in English on Nordic Startup Bits at

This article also appeared in the April 21, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.