Saturday, August 17, 2013

Building a 23rd Century Tricorder in the 21st

The $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize and $2.25 million Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGES are trying to identify the best portable technologies for diagnosing disease - as easily as Dr. McCoy's tricorder of the 23rd Century could. What scientific knowledge could help us to develop it in this age? Detecting metabolites, sensing DNA, imaging the nanoworld of the human body or interaction between matter and energy?

Medical diagnostics was always a multi-modal procedure. Even ancient physicians used optical sensing (observation), audio (auscitation) and olfaction along with interrogation and pattern recognition techniques. "The best diagnostic test" was always different for any given situation.

And the so much sought after tricorder can't be only about a single technological innovation or the right combination of existing measurement technologies, it is also about putting all the pieces together in a system that's smaller, lighter, cheaper, faster, better.

21st-century innovation is proving to be even more prolific than that of the 20th. Too many ideas, too few financially-supported ventures pursuing some of them. Yet, these 12 finalists of Nokia Sensing Challenge give an idea of what technologies are among the most popular. Here's the list:

Diagnostic Device Sensing platform Examples of diagnostic applications
Apollo  Optical - Spectrophotometer Noninvasive glucose monitoring
Holomic Optical - lens-free microscope Blood analysis, HIV monitoring
i-calQ Optical Blood and saliva analysis, Ebola monitoring
InSilixa Electrical Genetic diagnostics
MoboSens Electrical Water pollution monitoring
Gene- RADAR Biochemical Virus detection
Programmable-Bio-Nan-Chip Flluorescence, Immunoassays Heart disease
QUASAR Electromagnetic, ECG Heart disease
Silicon BioDevices Immunoassays Blood analysis
ABUS-urodynamics Ultrasound Disorders of urinary system
Elfi-Tech Occlusion Spectroscopy Noninvasive cardiac monitoring
Owlstone Chemical - Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometer Noninvasive glucose monitoring


Waters H (2011). New $10 million X Prize launched for tricorder-style medical device. Nature medicine, 17 (7) PMID: 21738131
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