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Gates Foundation Awards $100K to Lab-on-a-Chip Non-profit Diagnostics for All


This story originally ran on May 12.

Non-profit Diagnostics for All this week announced it has received a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support a global health research project for the diagnosis of HIV in Third World countries.

The project will be conducted by Roozbeh Ghaffari, principal investigator for DFA and MC10, a flexible electronics company collaborating with the non-profit.

The project, called "Disposable Paper-based Diagnostics Embedded with Optoelectronics for Viral Load Monitoring," would allow healthcare workers to more easily and accurately diagnose HIV in nations with limited access to diagnostic laboratory equipment, DFA said in a statement. The one-year demonstration project combines the Cambridge, Mass., firm's paper-based lab-on-a-chip technology with MC10's proprietary electronics to capture and then transmit test results.

Ghaffari is developing a light source, electronic photodetectors, and batteries that could be printed directly on DFA's stamp-sized diagnostic, which is currently in testing. The microfluidic technology was developed in the laboratory of Harvard University professor George Whitesides, who is a co-founder of DFA.

The chip, which tests for proteins present in body fluids, is being targeted for developing nations where access to healthcare and clinical laboratories are limited. Because of the size of the test and its portability, no specialized equipment, complex pumps, or power sources are needed. And costing only pennies, each chip would be thrown away after one use (PM 07/11/08).

The chip is pre-treated with reagents for color-based assays and patterned with hydrophobic polymers forming channels that direct a fluid sample to the pre-treated regions. Changes in color are correlated and translated into a diagnosis.

In the project headed by Ghaffari, a built-in antenna would transmit test results to a PDA, smart phone, or computer. "With the added electronics, the lab-on-a-chip would enable healthcare workers in challenging Third World environments to diagnose patients and store the test results," DFA said.

The company was founded in 2008 and funded in part by a Gates Foundation grant to Harvard. In February, the school granted exclusive rights to the paper-based microfluidic technology to DFA (PM 02/26/10).

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