The handheld testing application has always been something I’ve
only ever imagined as a bad plot device in science fiction. For researchers at
Columbia University’s The Flu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science,
it was apparently much, much more than that. A recent news
briefing from Dark Daily announced the introduction of a handheld HIV
testing device that not only works, but worked with better accuracy than
standard clinical laboratory assays.
“We’ve built a handheld mobile device that can perform
laboratory-quality HIV testing, and do it in just 15 minutes and on
finger-pricked whole blood,” stated Samuel K Sia, PhD, associate professor of
biomedical engineering at Columbia University, in the new brief.
Sia, along with a team of researchers developed the project
based on previous work, the “Lab on a Chip” campaign. Originally designed for personal
health diagnostics, the “Lab on a Chip” eventually morphed into the new device,
which was designed to remain “consistent with two important trends.” Sia’s goal
was to create a device to provide more efficient point-of-care testing (POCT),
as well as to develop a more cloud-friendly POCT assay.
“[W]ith the real time data upload, policy makers and
epidemiologists can also monitor disease prevalence across geographical regions
more quickly and effectively,” Jessica Justman, MD, associate clinical
professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School
of Public health, as well as senior technical director for mailman’s
International Center for AIDS care and treatment program, was quote in the Dark
The briefing noted Sia’s plans to both put the new device to
use in developing countries and still use it to improve patient care here in
the states. The article later cited the development as “further evidence of the
evolution of diagnostic testing,” remarking on the potential for future partnerships
between companies in healthcare services with the purpose of producing similarly
groundbreaking technologies. Regardless of the initial use, this new handheld
assay marks undeniable progress in the development of POCT technology.