Imagine a world where detecting an infection is as convenient, quick and possibly more accurate as finding out if there is a child in your womb. The ‘positive’ sign from such a test would not in any means be good news but it could potentially save lives.
With that in mind, biotech start-up Biosensorix has combined the practicality of a pregnancy test with the accuracy of a blood-glucose meter. While self-diagnostic kits for common arthropod-borne viral diseases aren’t something new, the Singapore-based team’s biggest innovation stems from a novel electrochemical lateral flow biosensor (ELFB) strip named ELLA (derived from Electro Lateral). It can be used for rapid, early detection, as well as measured analysis of bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections in biological liquids, or biotoxins in wastewater.
The diagnostic kit has been developed to not only determine if the user has been infected with viruses such as dengue or Zika, but also to discern how acute the case is. Biosensorix’s prototype of its electro-lateral flow biosensor has been devised to look like a smart USB drive, for the purpose of connecting to a reader that looks like an iPhone.
The designer of the devices and co-founder of Biosensorix Dr Luka Fajs, says: “We wanted to make something familiar. Many people don’t even know how to use most diagnostic tests. So, we needed to make something intuitive, something people would already have an idea about how it functions. The ‘USB’ stick is for one-time use, where blood is placed on a contact pad, and you just need to stick it into the reader; get the detailed diagnostics in 10 minutes; and throw it away. The plan is also to have the stick made out of biodegradable materials.”
Current fast point-of-care diagnostics do not offer quantitative results. A plain ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is the best answer one can get. Methods for in-depth analysis are usually laborious, done in a laboratory and involve highly trained personnel, requiring complicated, expensive machinery. Biosensorix is set to not only enable quicker time to relevant treatment but also make diagnostics less costly, also having an impact upon the point-of-care sector.
“The first users will still be doctors and nurses, who will use our devices regularly, according to regulatory procedures. It is a new technology, so we need the doctor’s approval,” says Fajs.
Besides ELLA, Biosensorix has another similar technology. It is paper-based and called a StackPad. It will allow for multiplex diagnostics, such as detecting the causative agent such as in child fevers. “It looks like a hamburger of paper,” Fajs adds. The StackPad could cost as little as US$1 and may even revolutionise diagnosis.
Fajs adds: “Our long-term goal is to work with the World Health Organization to enter Africa. We are also trying to work with African, as well as Singapore investors. We are currently on the right track to make a difference, not only in Africa and Singapore, but across the world.”
Biosensorix started as a research project at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in the laboratory of Prof Robert Marks. Initial success prompted further investigation and the research was transferred to Singapore as part of the New Create programme for water monitoring, and has received additional support from NRF POC, Smart Innovation and Spring.