New device offers 20-minute disease detection

Two University of Illinois bioengineering students are developing a diagnostic tool that can detect several blood-borne diseases within twenty minutes.

Daniel Knipmeyer and Andrew Naber are the co-founders of Citus Medical, the recently incorporated company responsible for this new diagnostic tool. This product is unique because it is scaled down to the point where anyone can use it, Knipmeyer said.

“Basically what we’ve developed is a device that will be able to diagnose a multitude of diseases at a time,” Knipmeyer said.

Diseases that used to require lab diagnosis and take hours to be detected can now be discovered quickly and conveniently. This new tool can diagnose anything from tuberculosis to HIV using multiplex protein testing, which is similar to the technology used for pregnancy tests.

This device combines all the things needed to make a diagnosis into one product.

“It’s a whole diagnostic tool. Usually when you do a blood diagnostic test, you have go to the hospital and they take your blood and send it to a lab. Then they do a whole bunch of chemistry and someone there interprets the results and sends it back to you,” Naber said. “So what our device does is takes all that and puts it into one place, one machine, one test.”

This device works by putting a few blood drops on a disk that is then inserted into the reader. Then the reader interprets the results in about 20 minutes. When the reader is finished, the screen on the reader will say the disease you were tested for and if it was positive or negative, Naber said.

Knipmeyer and Naber have been working on this device for three years and it all started with a desire to provide low cost diagnostic care to developing nations, Naber said.

They hope to use this device to help promote preventative care in rural India.

“Having a rapid way to test a lot of people is really important, especially in India, where 40% of the population is infected with tuberculosis,” Knipmeyer said.

In India, getting disease diagnoses is difficult, and a lot of people do not have the time, energy or transportation to get tested, Naber said.

“These people are walking 20 or 30 miles to get to a rural clinic and when they finally get there, they are sent somewhere else,” Naber said.

This device saves time and money by bring diagnostic care to these peoples’ doorsteps. This would result in more people getting tested, diagnosed and treated, Knipmeyer said.

There are different diseases prevalent in different areas of India. This device can be specialized to detect specific diseases for different regions, Knipmeyer said.

Knipmeyer and Naber say this product is targeted specifically at India and it is unlikely that it would have success in the United States.

“Clinics in the U.S. don’t have the same issues and needs as the clinics in India,” Naber said.

Their prototype is almost finished and they hope to be done with product testing by this summer. They then plan to go to health clinics in rural India to get a better idea of what residents need.

“We really need to go there (India) to get the qualitative, hands on research that we need,” Knipmeyer said. “Before we put the device on the market people need to be able to tell us what they like about it, dislike about it and what they really need from this device.”