The Ultimate Diagnostic Device

The new issue of Wired has a story I wrote on a new breed of molecular diagnostic tools - small, portable devices that detect telltale segments of DNA, that could be used at the point-of-care (from the doctor's office to a Saharan village) and be a major weapon against infectious disease, from XDR TB (which is why the WHO is interested) to anthrax (which is why the DoD is interested). I focus on Akonni Biosystems, a small startup out of Maryland that's crafting one promising microarray tool based on technology developed at Argonne National Lab. Here's the gist:

There is a new crop of diagnostic tools on the horizon, portable devices that can detect infectious disease with a degree of accuracy that measures up to that of lab-based cultures. The approach blends the values of the technology sector, in which products live or die based on how well they scale toward cheaper, simpler versions, with the priorities of global public health, which holds that if a solution isn't cheap and simple to use, it may as well not exist. The result is an emphasis on cost, speed, size, and simplicity. It's a formula that could change the way infectious disease is detected and treated.

Thomas GoetzComment