A Danish and Taiwanese company has won Australia’s Good Design Award for a portable diagnostic device—small enough to fit in a camera case—that allows diagnosis of infectious diseases on the spot from a single drop of blood.
“The Good Design Award ranked BluBox as the best solution for the rapid and accurate assessment of communicable diseases in heavily populated as well as resource-constrained, expertise-lacking areas,” explained Filippo Bosco, CEO and one of the three founders of BluSense Diagnostics (Copenhagen).
The secret inside the BluBox is a patented technology known as immuno-magnetic assay (IMA), which takes place within a single-use cartridge, the ViroTrack. There, the plasma is separated from the red blood cells and mixed with reagents and magnetic nanoparticles. A strong magnetic field and blue laser light are applied to achieve the result, all within 9 to 15 minutes.
Currently, BluSense offers a portfolio of single-use cartridges for zika and dengue, which can measure one or two markers (antibodies or antigens) from a single drop of blood per cartridge. “We aim to increase the number of markers that can be tested in one cartridge to up to six in the future,” Bosco told MD+DI.
The BluBox currently on the market processes one cartridge at the time. “Our device meets the needs of general practitioners and small- to medium-sized clinics, which are our main customers and do not have the means to maintain fully equipped laboratories,” Bosco explained. “Aiming to assist large hospitals in coping with the workload during outbreaks in the future,” he added, “we are developing an advanced, next-generation BluBox with higher throughput, which will be able to run up to 30 tests per hour.”
BluSense has seen high demand from public and private healthcare facilities in southeast Asia and Latin America. International healthcare organizations, according to Bosco, have also shown great interest. They like the ease of use by non-physicians, affordability, and expanding portfolio of diagnostic tests, but there’s another draw: “They are most intrigued by the possibility of geo-timed reporting of confirmed positive cases, providing governments and non-governmental organizations with statistical data that can come in handy addressing issues such as the misreporting of positive cases and outbreaks,” Bosco shared.
Data is stored in the BluBox and can be exported via a USB connection. Data from several thousand patients can be stored within a single BluBox unit. “BluBox has LAN and Wi-Fi capabilities that will be activated via software updates in the very near future,” Bosco added. “It will ensure that every single device is constantly monitored, allowing BluSense to identify if one of the BluBoxes is malfunctioning.”
BluBox and ViroTrack are approved for sale in Europe, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia. The company is working toward approval in other Asian and Latin American markets but has no current plans to market BluBox and ViroTrack in the United States.
The devices are already in clinical use in Thailand. “In total, we have shipped around 100 BluBoxes and 10,000 cartridges for diagnostic as well as research and demonstration use,” Bosco calculated.
Future development is focused on developing additional assays. The next targets are chikungunya, yellow fever, and West Nile fever. “Then we would like to carry on with more ambitious diseases such as dengue hemorrhagic fever or Ebola,” Bosco shared. “We are also considering assays for respiratory or sexually transmitted diseases.”