The University of Washington has been awarded a $15.4 million grant as lead partner of a regional consortium to develop a portable device that promises to bring the technological power of a modern medical diagnostics center to the remote regions of the world.
The award was announced last week as one of 43 groundbreaking research projects to improve health in developing countries, supported by $436 million from the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative.
The consortium is a collaboration of academic, industry and non-profit partners. In addition to the UW, it includes PATH, Micronics Inc. and Nanogen Inc. (Nasdaq: NGEN), all of which have facilities in Washington state.
“This is a formidable group,” said Paul Yager, professor and vice chair of the UW Department of Bioengineering and lead investigator on the project. “Each partner brings vital skills and experience to the mix. I believe this combination is what led to our being selected from such a wide range of applicants and it’s what will make our efforts successful.”
The project is aimed at developing and testing prototypes of a device about the size of a handheld computer that healthcare workers could pack into remote regions to quickly and easily make life-saving diagnoses. Developing countries have limited resources to accurately and easily test patients for preventable life-threatening diseases, such as malaria and typhoid fever. The consortium’s efforts will concentrate on filling the need for an affordable, portable device to do on-the-spot tests and provide results in a matter of minutes.
About the Partners
Yager and the UW’s nationally ranked bioengineering department will lead the consortium. The group will draw on more than 10 years of research in microfluidics and surface chemistries by Yager and colleague Patrick Stayton in developing the device.
Yager has been with the UW since 1987. In addition to point-of-care diagnostic instruments, his research interests include microfluidic devices for chemical and biological measurement, microfabrication technologies for microfluidics, and the biophysics of self-organizing systems. For more information, see http://depts.washington.edu/bioe/people/core/yager/yager.html
Stayton, a bioengineering professor, has been with the UW since 1992. His research interests involve the fundamental mechanisms of biomolecular recognition and applying the unique capabilities of biological molecules to biotechnologies. For more information, see http://www.bioeng.washington.edu/stayton/
Based in Redmond, Washington, Micronics is a leading provider of laboratory-on-a-card (“lab card”) design, development and production services on behalf of clients worldwide. Micronics’ patented microfluidics and microplumbing technologies, coupled with its expertise in integrating molecular and immunoassays on card, allow it to fundamentally modify the way in which fluids are processed and diagnostic assays are performed at greatly reduced volumes, time and cost. Micronics uniquely integrates other components into its lab cards as well, such as printed reagents, membranes, sensors and electrodes, in order to enable devices that allow rapid, user friendly, point of use detection, monitoring and diagnosis. Micronics is believed to offer the most sophisticated and rapid lab card prototyping facility in the world today. For additional information, see www.micronics.net.
Under the grant, Micronics will design and develop the disposable lab cards, integrating Nanogen’s unique reagents as well as novel materials and assays being developed by the UW collaborators. Additionally, Micronics will lead the integration effort of the card with a portable device and will spearhead the commercialization strategy for the product in developing countries.
Nanogen’s advanced diagnostics provide researchers, clinicians, physicians and patients worldwide with improved methods and tests that can predict, diagnose and ultimately help treat disease. Nanogen’s products include real-time PCR reagents, the NanoChip® Molecular Biology Workstation platform for molecular diagnostic applications and a line of point-of-care, rapid diagnostic tests. Nanogen’s 10 years of pioneering research involving nanotechnology may also have future applications in medical diagnostics, biowarfare and other industries. For additional information, see www.nanogen.com.
Under the grant, Nanogen will provide its proprietary chemistry and assay development for the lab cards.
PATH is an international, nonprofit organization which creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions that enable communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. Through collaboration with diverse public- and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. PATH’s work improves global health and well-being. For more information, see www.path.org.
Under the grant, PATH will be responsible for coordinating the acquisition of clinical samples as well as performing the laboratory validation of the tests with those samples, working closely with the UW, Micronics, and Nanogen to optimize the performance of the prototype during the development phase. PATH will also be collaborating closely with partners to ensure that the product is appropriate and accessible to communities that are currently unable to afford expensive, laboratory-based methods of diagnosis.
The Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative is a major international effort to achieve scientific breakthroughs against diseases that kill millions of people each year in the world’s poorest countries. It is funded with a $450 million commitment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, $27 million from the Wellcome Trust, and $4.5 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The Gates Foundation funding includes a $200 million commitment managed by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.
For more information:
University of Washington, Rob Harrill, (206) 543-2589 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Micronics, Karen Hedine, (425) 895-9197 ext. 126 or email@example.com
Nanogen, Pam Lord, (858) 527-3494 or firstname.lastname@example.org
PATH, Ellen Cole, (206) 285-3500 or email@example.com
The Gates Foundation news release is available at