GE, U. of Wash. team up to make paper-based diagnostics device

GE is working to build a portable, smartphone-compatible diagnostic tool to diagnose methicillin-resistant MRSA.--Courtesy of GE

GE's ($GE) technology development arm has joined forces with the University of Washington to build a small, paper-based diagnostic tool to detect infectious diseases with a nasal swab.

The disposable device, about the size of a deck of cards, is designed to diagnose methicillin-resistant MRSA, a bacterium that can cause infections in institutional settings such as hospitals and prisons. Once activated by a nasal swab, the paper changes color to indicate the presence of the target disease without the need for complex instruments, according to GE. Targets could eventually include a broad range from bacterial to viral to sexually transmitted diseases.

The project is funded by a $9.6 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and an ongoing $5.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, as well as support from the Seattle Children's Hospital, Epoch Biosciences, and PATH. DARPA previously granted the team $4 million to develop its instrument-free nucleic acid amplification technology for pathogen identification.

"As part of our program with DARPA, we're developing a small, light-weight device that a doctor could fit in their pocket," said David Moore, project investigator for GE, in a statement. "We want this to be as simple as a pregnancy test, where sample preparation to read-out is all done within the device with minimal user intervention."

And Paul Yager, chair of bioengineering at the University of Washington, said: "We're very excited about this team's unique ability to combine new designs for paper-based microfluidics with new nucleic amplification methods and GE's novel paper chemistries to help develop the first fully-disposable versatile pathogen identification technology for use in the developed and developing worlds."

- here's the release

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