The mChip device can quickly, easily and inexpensively perform complex HIV testing even in the most remote regions of the planet.
Just in the past few weeks we’ve seen mobile tools for diagnosing melanoma and malaria, signalling a world of new possibilities for global healthcare. Now, focusing on HIV in developing countries, there’s the mChip, an inexpensive plastic “lab on a chip” that can diagnose HIV infections in just 15 minutes. In many parts of the developing world, blood tests must be sent to a central lab for processing, meaning that results can take weeks to arrive. Not so with the mChip, a device that can quickly, easily and inexpensively perform complex laboratory assays even in the most remote regions of the planet. Developed by Columbia engineering professor Samuel Sia in collaboration with Claros Diagnostics, the mChip — short for “mobile microfluidic chip” — requires only a tiny drop of blood, obtained through a finger prick, to test for both syphilis and HIV. Results are available in less than 15 minutes and are quantitative and objective, requiring no user interpretation. The microchip inside the device is created through injection molding and holds miniature forms of test tubes and chemicals. It costs about USD 1, while the entire instrument costs about USD 100. Sia has been testing the mChip in Rwanda over the past four years. A version of the mChip that tests for prostate cancer has already been approved for use in Europe. Now, Sia hopes to use the mChip to help pregnant women in Rwanda who live too far away to be diagnosed at a clinic or hospital. “When you’re in these villages, you may have the drugs for many STDs, but you don’t know who to give treatments to, so the challenge really comes down to diagnostics,” he explains. Healthcare entrepreneurs: a project to get involved in? Spotted by: Katherine Noyes