The world of medical testing rarely provides instant gratification. That has started to change as rapid diagnostic testing technologies advance, with products like the Gene-RADAR and the mChip, which can diagnose HIV with lab-level accuracy in 15 minutes. The latest advance on this front is the Q-POC, a handheld device that can diagnose infections and any potential drug resistance of the infection in 10 to 15 minutes.
The founder of QuantuMDx Group, the company behind the Q-POC, had a genetic services company before launching this newest venture. "We were frustrated with the length of time it took to do diagnostics, and the costs. We could certainly see our patients spent three weeks worrying, and they should be getting results immediately," says co-founder and chief scientific officer Jonathan O'Halloran. "Our goal is to shrink the laboratory and put it into the hands of a doctor."
When the six year-old company received seed funding from the South African government, the team moved to Capetown for two years. That's when the focus on developing world diseases came about. "There's a real humanitarian need," says O'Halloran.
The first Q-POC diagnostic test will be for malaria, which infects approximately 219 million people each year. The test requires a single prick of blood, and a pre-loaded cartridge that tests for malaria provides results on the Q-POC screen about 15 minutes later. This video explains the details of the process:
While there are other rapid diagnostic tests that can also accurately diagnose diseases, O'Halloran points out that many look at only one or two genetic markers, while the Q-POC looks at thousands. Those extra malaria markers provide critical details about drug resistance that can determine a patient's treatment regimen.
QuantuMDx Group recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise awareness about its product. Backers won't actually be able to buy the Q-POC. But if the company raises enough money, it will be able to launch a large clinical trial.
The Q-POC device will cost between $750 and $1,000, and each cartridge will cost $10, though that number will go down as volume increases, according to Elaine Warburton, cofounder and CEO of QuantuMDx. The next step once the malaria test is released: moving on to tuberculosis and STDs. "There's a big market pull from the developed world," adds Jonathan. "It's just going to take a little longer."