Government invests in bug-busting technology

The government is investing £800,000 to develop biosensor chips and hardware for real-time hand-held monitoring technology to detect diseases such as malaria and meningitis in the field.

Cambridge-based nanotechnology firm Akubio received the grant to develop a portable, low cost, rapid response disease diagnosis device, which could help doctors make instant and accurate diagnoses.

The device uses the quartz crystal element from a simple wristwatch and can be powered by standard batteries. It could enable doctors to make instant, accurate, bedside or in-the-field medical diagnoses from blood or other samples.

The device’s sensor detects specific molecules within a sample, using miniaturised echo sounder acoustic technology to determine the presence of marker proteins for a particular disease or disease causing pathogens. This would encompass bacterial or viral infections including avian influenza, meningitis, E.coli and malaria, and chemicals that could indicate heart attack, stroke and some cancers.

The project will bring together three technologies: Reagent Mine’s pre-concentration of analytes from complex biological samples on magnetic beads and nanoparticles, Cambridge University’s polymeric biocompatible surface coatings, and Akubio’s acoustic detection methodology.

An integrated magnetic pre-concentration module will be fabricated for use in Akubio’s desktop instrumentation. This could ultimately lead to a portable, hand-held device that will enable more efficient, reliable and rapid diagnosis of disease, and the same-day screening of patient samples.