The University of Washington has received nearly $10 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to continue a project aimed at building a small, paper-based device that could test for infectious diseases on-demand in areas where diagnostic capabilities are limited.
The $9.6 million cooperative agreement awarded to the UW and its partners - General Electric Co. Global Research, Seattle-based Epoch Biosciences Inc., global health nonprofit Path, and Seattle Children's - will fund researchers to build a prototype of the device, which could be as small as a deck of playing cards and would work much like an over-the-counter pregnancy test.
"This test will be inexpensive, simple to use and robust enough that people could use it in their homes, in the developing world and in a doctor's office," said lead researcher Paul Yager, professor and chair of the UW bioengineering department.
A patient would take a nasal swab, then activate the disposable device. The device would look for the DNA or RNA of a specific set of pathogens in the body fluid sample. If a target pathogen is present, within an hour a pattern of dots would appear on the test paper. Patients could take a smartphone photo and transmit those results to their physician anywhere in the world for a diagnosis.
"There are a lot of cell phones now in the developing world, so you could test and receive a diagnosis in places where there aren't any medical testing facilities," Yager said.