Device can get a read-out from ‘virtually any tissue sample’

A new handheld diagnostic ‘toolbox’ device is claimed to be able to get a read-out from virtually any type of tissue sample without the need for any pre-preparation.

While there are currently numerous point-of-care devices at various stages of development, Newcastle-based QuantuMDx (QMDx) says it can perform several preparation steps on the same platform.

These include initial sample preparation, DNA extraction, amplification of target DNA stretches using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and ultimately disease detection using DNA sequencing.

Crucially, it is one of the first such handheld devices able to carry out true DNA sequencing for multiple data points, as opposed to inference-based methods for single data points or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

QMDx will focus on testing its device for tuberculosis (TB), sexually transmitted diseases and cardiovascular disease.

‘The reason why I invented this technology is to perform infectious-disease resistance sequencing in the field, at the patient’s side. It’s a problem that’s not received enough press in my opinion,’ Jonathan O’Halloran, QMDx’s chief scientific officer, told The Engineer.

O’Halloran spent two years in the Khayelitsha township near Cape Town in South Africa, where he got the inspiration to develop the technology, before going on to co-found the company.

‘Many, many times we had patients test positive for TB and so the samples go on for resistance testing and two weeks later they come back as multi-drug-resistant XDR [extremely drug-resistant]-TB.

‘The problem is we’ve prescribed a first-line therapeutic and the patient has gone back into the community, passed on XDR-TB and subsequently died. So we’ve wasted money and not contained the XDR. It’s a problem that is being repeated all over the world.’

The company currently has a device, Q-POC, at alpha-stage prototype testing, and hopes to further hone it in the next 18 months before undertaking full trials.

O’Halloran said his team kept costs down by either using out-of-patent technology or developing new technology in house where needed to avoid royalty costs.