Hemex Health was awarded third place and $100,000 in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) competition for its collaborative noninvasive diagnostics system for disorders such as sickle cell disease (SCD).
The aim of the contest, called the NIH Technology Accelerator Challenge, was to spark development of platform concepts and prototypes of noninvasive diagnostic tools for SCD, malaria, and anemia — conditions that have significant global and public health impact.
“Our developers and advisers believe that rapid, noninvasive, ultra low-cost diagnostics will enable entire communities to be screened, helping to eliminate malaria and to diagnose children with sickle cell disease and anemia early enough to get them started on treatments before they become seriously ill,” Patti White, Hemex CEO, said in a press release.
Code named SMART — which stands for “Sickle, Malaria, Anemia, Rapid Test — the system includes noninvasive diagnostic testing for SCD, malaria, and anemia.
The aim is to build upon Hemex Health’s Gazelle platform, which currently includes minimally invasive tests — using a blood drop — for malaria, hemoglobin variants, and comprehensive hemoglobin measurements for suspected anemia. Currently, the malaria test returns results in about a minute. The test for disorders such as SCD takes eight minutes. A commercialized tool for anemia is being developed.
The noninvasive tests, however, would screen for anemia, malaria, and SCD using an optical finger sensor, much like those used to monitor blood oxygen levels. The goal is a one-minute 25-cent noninvasive diagnostic tool for those disorders.
Combining noninvasive and minimally invasive tests enables more diagnostic information, plus confirmation, on the same platform, the company said.
The platform is designed for possibly rugged, low-resource settings such as those present in many under-developed countries. It’s portable, battery-powered, and offers data storage and transmission.
“The world desperately needs easy-to-use diagnostic technologies with the flexibility needed to meet viruses and diseases in every corner of the planet,” White said.
SCD affects nearly 25 million people worldwide. More than 500 children die daily due to a lack of access to early diagnosis and treatment. In Ghana, for example, fewer than 4% of babies are tested for sickle cell disease because of the high cost to the country’s public health service.
The SMART technology is being developed in collaboration with Medtronic, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s International Foundation Against Infectious Disease in Nigeria.
The technology challenge was sponsored by the NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and the Gates Foundation.
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