A portable “lab in a box” in development could bring clinical testing services — otherwise performed within laboratories — to remote rural locations across India.
The portable laboratory is being developed by Hemex Health with the intention of being able to diagnose potentially fatal diseases such as malaria and sickle cell disease, both of which are endemic within India.
Hemex, a US-based healthcare startup in Portland, Oregon, has brought their funding to $4.5 million USD to date. The funds are being used to develop of two products: the Magneto-optical device, which diagnoses malaria, and the Hemechip, which diagnoses hemoglobin disorders like sickle cell anaemia.
Much of the funding is being allocated to India as one of the clinical testing and product development sites. Locations within Nigeria, Peru and Uganda are also being used for clinical testing alongside a laboratory space near scientific collaborators at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
The company intends to market the products as innovative solutions to global health issues. They hope to attract more investors to expand the project and complete the development within two years of their initial setup of the company in 2016.
The “lab in a box” could be a crucial asset to doctors in rural India. The diagnosis machines operate on a simple pin prick of blood from the patient, allowing for on the spot, rapid diagnosis in the field. This could be a boon for many areas in rural India in which healthcare infrastructure is lacking.
On-the-spot testing could also allow for far cheaper diagnosis than standard lab tests. The kit, if it performs as intended, could potentially make the process of sending off multiple blood samples to laboratories with the equipment to test them obsolete. Hemex Health have claimed their product could allow for testing for malaria and sickle cell disease from as little as $1 USD a sample.
Malaria tends to be prevalent in rural areas in which sanitation may be lacking, or access to water is limited and drives people to use often stagnant sources such as ponds. This, coupled with limited access to healthcare in rural areas, means that areas most affected by the disease are often most in need of treatment and facilities to cope with increased burden.
The “lab in a box” may see a large amount of use within India if successful. Bangalore based Tata Elxsi has already been declared the design and engineering partner for the device, indicating an interest for the project within India.