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Early Conceptual Design Showing The Pieces Necessary For A Field-based Diagnostic Test, Including A Swab, A Smartphone, And The Testing Device. (Courtesy: University Of Washington, Department Of Bioengineering)

You’ve heard of on-demand TV, now imagine on-demand medical diagnosis – anytime, anywhere in the world. Scientists at GE Global Research, the technology development arm of the General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), are working with a team based at the University of Washington to develop a new medical device, the size of a pack of playing cards, that can detect infectious disease by way of a simple nasal swab, in less than an hour. See a video simulation of how such a device could work and hear from GE’s lead researcher by going to http://youtu.be/jJVgIIee2xM.

“We live in an on-demand world, where news and information is instantaneous. We’ve asked why the same can’t be done for diagnosing infectious diseases where early detection is so critical to positive patient outcomes,” said David Moore, Manager of the Membrane and Separation Technologies Lab at GE Global Research and Co-Principal Investigator on the project. “As part of our program with DARPA, we’re developing a small, light-weight device that a doctor could fit in their pocket. This unit could readily detect multiple pathogens in limited resource settings, such as military outposts or communities in remote areas.”

GE is conducting the research jointly with a team led by Prof. Paul Yager, Chair of Bioengineering at the University of Washington. "We're very excited about this team's unique ability to combine new designs for paper-based microfluidics with new nucleic amplification methods and GE's novel paper chemistries to help develop the first fully-disposable versatile pathogen identification technology for use in the developed and developing worlds, " said Yager

Other collaborators in the project, which is funded by an 18-month, $9.6 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), include Seattle Children’s, Epoch Biosciences, and PATH. The focus is the development of instrument-free nucleic acid amplification for pathogen identification. The team was previously awarded a DARPA grant for $4 million, and is also funded by an ongoing $5.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that focuses on immunoassay development for detection of influenza.

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