Rapid Diagnostics: New Opportunity for European Companies

Photo: LabOnFoil

A LabOnFoil chip; © Elhuyar Fundazioa

Led by the Basque R&D Alliance IK4, 13 organizations in 8 different countries have been conducting research for three years under the European LabOnFoil project to develop new rapid diagnostic devices.

A patch for detecting cocaine consumption from skin perspiration, a chip to identify pathogens in foods, a device for monitoring colon cancer via a patient's blood, and a sensor to detect environmental contamination via the analysis of marine algae. All four applications arose from the European research project LabOnFoil. This initiative was set-up to develop rapid and low-cost diagnostics devices that could be adapted to different situations and, in short, offer society new advances to improve quality of life.

The collaboration between the 13 organizations who participated in the project has borne fruit in the form of the four applications, which have generated new business opportunities in sectors with high added value. As underlined by the project coordinator, Jesús M. Ruano-López, “the consortium’s efficient use of resources and good management in general have enabled LabOnFoil to have a significant economic impact”.

The LabOnFoil project, which commenced in 2008 and ended in February 2013, had a budget of 7.1 million Euro, and was co-financed by the VII European Framework Programme (EU). Ruano-López explained that “the goal for all LabOnFoil project partners was none other than the development of devices with a positive social and economic impact. Results have been achieved thanks to our determination to develop compact, reliable devices with added value compared to existing competitors, that is, that could be commercially exploited”.

“Teamwork has enabled us to combine consortium members’ different specializations, such as microtechnology, molecular biology, materials, and electronics, to develop much more compact, economical and easier to use diagnostic systems than exist at present. Which ultimately enables drugs, illnesses, contamination, etc. to be identified in very different scenarios, with a very significant commercial impact”, stated Ruano-López.

The device for monitoring colon cancer via a patient's blood can be used for monitoring patients with this illness, the second most common cause of death in the west. The device offers the option to monitor illness progression using just a few drops of blood, and provides almost instantaneous results. The device will carry out minimally invasive monitoring of their condition over time, thus avoiding tests involving colonoscopy. As Garbiñe Olabarria, head of the research at GAIKER-IK4, pointed out, “the development of this application means that it will be possible to analyze the evolution of the disease with just a small blood sample that is obtained at the doctor’s surgery and which will provide the result in less than an hour”.

The EU’s aim in setting up the project was to promote knowledge in the field of rapid diagnostics devices, which constitute a very significant step forward compared to conventional techniques on account of the advantages inherent in their use: these are lab-on-a-chip based devices which offer laboratory level feature sets, but integrated into portable low-cost devices. Which means fluids can be analyzed immediately and in situ, providing both time and cost savings, avoiding having to take samples to a laboratory and await results.

Likewise it is also worth noting another very significant advance made by this project: it has led to the creation of compact diagnostic systems that can also be remotely connected to computers, tablets and smartphones. Whereby, the data obtained by a device used to identify a pathogen at, for example a poultry farm, can be inspected by a vet located in another part of the world.

MEDICA.de; Source: Elhuyar Fundazioa