Cheaply improving diagnosis in the developing world has an impact which is simply staggering. There’s a vast backlog of breakthrough science and technology waiting to be applied

Just in the field of biosensors alone, although there are already many potentially game-changing projects under way, there’s still an almost endless list of major new discoveries whose potential to be turned into low-cost life-saving diagnostic tools has hardly been touched.

The disturbing thing about watching a new presentation on leading-edge diagnostic applications like the ones in the video below, is that it soon becomes shockingly apparent just how many diseases (and their respective diagnostic solutions) that the teams in question have no alternative but to leave ‘to be pursued in a later project’ in order to focus on the solutions that they’re currently working on.

The talk was called:

Developing Diagnostics for the Developing World

It was given by Professor Jonathan Cooper, head of the Advanced Medical Diagnostics Group at Glasgow University School of Engineering.

The talk was presented at an event hosted by The Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE).

The event was called Photonics West 2012, held at the The Moscone Center in San Francisco on on the 23rd of January.

The talk was included in in a plenary session on MOEMS [Micro-Opto-Electro-Mechanical Systems] /MEMS [Micro- Electro-Mechanical systems]

Here’s the official abstract of the talk:

Infectious diseases cause 10 million deaths each year worldwide, accounting for ~60% of all deaths of children aged 5-14.

Although these deaths arise primarily through pneumonia, TB, malaria and HIV, there are also the so called “neglected diseases” such as sleeping sickness and bilharzia, which have a devastating impact on rural communities, in sub-Sahara Africa.

Here, the demands for a successful Developing World diagnostic are particularly rigorous, requiring low cost instrumentation with low power consumption (there is often no fixed power infrastructure).

In many cases, the levels of infection within individuals are also sufficiently low that instruments must show extraordinary sensitivity, with measurements being made in blood or saliva.

In this talk, a description of these demands will be given, together with a review of some of the solutions that have been developed, which include using acoustics, optics and electrotechnologies, and their combinations to manipulate the fluid samples.

In one example, we show how to find a single trypanosome, as the causative agent of sleeping sickness.

Here’s a biography of the speaker:

Jonathan Cooper has pioneered technologies in biosensors (1980s), protein and DNA microarrays (1990s) and Lab-on-a-Chip and Bionanotechnology (2000s).

He has published about 200 research papers, and is the founder of Mode Diagnostics (, producing home diagnostics for bowel cancer and other bathroom diagnostic tests.

In his recent research, he has focused upon using plasmonics and phononics in the field of medical diagnostics.

In one example, using phononics, he has created frequency dependent acoustic lenses and mirrors with phononic crystals to enable generic platforms for low cost Developing World diagnostics.

Jon was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical Engineering and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

He was appointed to the Wolfson Chair in Biomedical Engineering in 2009 and was awarded a Royal Society Merit Award in 2010.

And if you want to see a completely different kind of biosensor technology presentation (although it’s equally fascinating and was given at another event in San Francisco just a few days earlier than the one above) on a solution which is already being deployed (in the UK):

That talk was called:

Designing in Health: Making Technology Invisible with Arna Ionescu

Arna Ionescu is Director of Product Development & UX [‘User eXperience’] at Proteus Biomedical

The talk was presented at an event hosted by Rock Health “The first seed accelerator for digital health startups”

The event was called the Health Innovation Summit

The summit took place at the Fort Mason Center, San Francisco between the 18th and 20th of January 2012.

Here’s an extract from a press release about the technology described in that last presentation:

Lloydspharmacy [] partners with Proteus Biomedical to launch innovative digital health product

UK community pharmacy chain Lloydspharmacy and US company Proteus Biomedical, Inc., a pioneer in digital health, have today announced an exclusive strategic collaboration to commercialize and launch Helius™, a digital health product focused on consumers and family caregivers.

Helius has been designed to provide assurance and peace of mind to individuals struggling with complex medication regimens and health issues, and to connect these individuals to the family, friends and professionals caring for them.

As part of the agreement with Proteus, Lloydspharmacy will launch Helius in the UK and sell the system through selected pharmacies. Helius will be paid for by consumers and their families.

Combining sensor-enabled tablets, a sensor patch worn on the body, an advanced mobile health (mHealth) application and information service, and Lloydspharmacy’s current medication adherence packaging, Helius allows consumers to remain independent in their own homes and their loved ones to help take care of them.

Helius helps to monitor when medications have been taken along with a range of additional patient information including sleep patterns and physical activity.

These metrics are then combined to provide useful information to allow the patient, carer or family member to follow progress and collaborate on maintaining patient wellness.

The World Health Organisation estimates 50% of patients fail to take their medicines correctly.

This can result in patients not gaining the full benefit of their treatment, or worse, being at risk of harmful reactions. Unused prescription medicine is also estimated to cost the NHS in the UK around £396 million² a year.

Here’s a bio of Arna:

Arna Ionescu is the Director of Product Development, User Experience at Proteus Biomedical, where she works to ensure that Proteus’ automated, in-body therapy management system seamlessly integrates into consumers’ lives.

Prior, Ms. Ionescu spent seven years at global design and innovation firm IDEO.

With her background in interaction design and strategic human factors she built IDEO’s Connected Health domain, working with clients to create products and services that leverage technology to facilitate healthcare delivery.

Along with publishing and speaking regularly on design for health care, Ms. Ionescu teaches design at Stanford University and California College of Art.

She holds a master’s in computer science/human computer interaction from Stanford and a bachelor’s in computer science, with a minor in modern dance, from Princeton University.