Researchers developing portable HIV tracker

By Chris Gullo
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ChipCare CEO Rakesh Nayyar

A team of Canadian researchers have invented a portable device for analyzing the blood of HIV patients that could greatly increase the speed and ease of HIV tracking in remote or developing areas, according to a report by the The Vancouver Sun. The device, a cell analyzer, includes a chip that provides blood test results within minutes and could allow healthcare workers to easily administer tests outside of hospitals, forgoing the need for specialists.

The blood of HIV patients must be routinely tested to accurately track the progression of the virus. The research team began developing the device in 2007 with an eye on improving cancer diagnostics. According to the report in the Sun, the device uses a process similar to glucose meters, which make use of diagnostic strips.

The team expects the device to cost about $5,000 to $10,000, while each test strip would cost a few dollars. In comparison, machines in hospitals which perform flow cytometry for disease markers can vary from $35,00 to $100,000 dollars in price. They are also restrictive in size and far from portable.

While the current version of the blood analyzer measures about the size of a loaf of bread and stores test information on the device only, the team is developing a new prototype that is slightly bigger than a smartphone, includes a GPS and camera, fits in one hand and can send test results wirelessly to a medical database. The team plans to have its prototype finished by March for deployment of 100 units to Malawi and Thailand for field use by mid-2012, pending an additional $3 million in funding. Successful trials in Thailand and Malawi could lead to its submission for clearance in North America, where it could be used in remote areas.

The researchers have created a company called ChipCare Corp to commercialize the device.

Read the Toronto Sun article here.