Highfield Diagnostics: multipurpose portable medical tests
Disposable pregnancy tests have become a familiar and trusted product for an instant diagnosis in the home environment. They are cheap, easy to use and provide a quick answer to an important question: are you pregnant, or not?
There are situations however where patients would value knowing more than one piece of information from a test. They may want to determine pregnancy, but also assess whether blood pressure, glucose levels or cholesterol is higher than it should be. They may also want to know whether the subject is suffering from any other conditions.
This tantalising prospect of multipurpose disposable tests has been pursued by Professor Rob Eason and Dr Collin Sones from the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre and the pair are close to bringing a valuable product to market.
The researchers are spinning out a technology which allows a paper strip, like those found in a pregnancy test, to diagnose multiple conditions. They have managed this breakthrough by writing several flow channels within a single paper test sample. Their patented laser-based process can easily create up to 10 channels, for example, within a single strip.
Highfield Diagnostics is being set up to supply laser-patterned paper which will allow partners to create cheap and disposable diagnostics for a range of common diseases and conditions. Rob and Collin are looking for investment to set up a first manufacturing line which will allow the business to start supplying patterned paper to medical diagnostics manufacturers.
“Advanced diagnostics will all be available from a single test which can be used in the comfort of your own home as well as in hospitals or doctors surgeries,” Rob says. “One of our target markets is developing countries. The low costs of these combined tests will help bring advanced healthcare to a worldwide audience.”
The technology uses a laser beam which is scanned across a pre-prepared paper substrate. This creates a pre-determined set of flow channels that an end manufacturer will want. In a final manufacturing process, the laser would be directed by a scanner – allowing each patterned device to be written in a fraction of a second.
In the example shown here, test strips have been written with three flow channels. In practice, the team will easily be able to write 10 separate channels to test either 10 different conditions or a single condition across different levels of quantification.
The technology also allows a precise control of fluid delay to enable efficient lab-on-paper device applications. Other patterns are possible and wells (pictured at the top of the page) can be written just as easily. The overall aim is to develop cheap and user-friendly multiplexed diagnostics tests on paper.
This exciting university spinout is ready to disrupt the point-of-test and point-of-care diagnosis markets. Investors are invited to get in touch with the Highfield Diagnostics team using the contact form on this page.