Research

Detecting Disease via Mobile Phone

Detecting Disease via Mobile Phone

Protein technology developed at Newcastle University could soon be used in remote parts of the developing world to diagnose infectious diseases, and in homes in the Western world to manage chronic illnesses.

The science behind the technology, designed by biochemist Professor Jeremy Lakey, has inspired the commercial development of a hand-held disease detector. This device enables tests to be carried out quickly, easily and on the spot.

Hand-held disease detector
Photo of hand-held disease detector

Accurate results in minutes

The device contains a biochip which tests samples of saliva, blood, serum or urine that can be read using smartphone technology. Accurate results are available in minutes without samples being sent for lab analysis.

The flu virus and respiratory conditions are the first targets for the device. There is also potential to adapt the device to diagnose other infectious diseases.

Improvements to healthcare

Clinical studies are already under way into the potential of the device in testing for gum disease and HIV.

Trials of the device for flu will start in the next 12 months. This follows five years of prototype development and work with Public Health England to prove its capability.

The device is being brought to the market by OJ-Bio. A joint venture between Professor Lakey’s spinout biotechnology company, Orla Protein Technologies, based in Newcastle, and electronics giant the Japan Radio Company.

VIDEO: Detecting disease by mobile phone

Wireless diagnostics

Professor Lakey said: “We are at the leading edge of wireless point-of-care diagnostics. There is a lot of buzz around the concept, but few places are as advanced as we are in bringing a truly mobile device to market, and that is incredibly exciting.

With increasing mobile phone coverage in even the most remote areas of the world, the possible applications for our technology – and the opportunities to deliver improvements to healthcare and the environment – are enormous.”

Dr Andrew Sails, Public Health England said: "This is very exciting technology which has the potential to revolutionise point of care testing for infectious diseases."

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Contact Information

Professor Jeremy Lakey
Email: jeremy.lakey@ncl.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8865