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UK startup to crowdfund handheld device that can diagnose malaria and drug resistance in 15 mins

A UK-based biotechnology startup has turned to crowdfunding site IndieGoGo in order to fund a handheld diagnostic device that could help eradicate malaria.

The Newcastle-based company QuantuMDx is the product of molecular biologist Jonathan O'Halloran's work in tackling malarial drug resistance.

In some parts of Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the parasites that cause malaria have adapted to become resistant to artemisinins, the most common form of anti-malarial drug, resulting in worse rates of infection and death.

O'Halloran has worked with a small team of researchers within QuantuMDx to develop a handheld blood analyser that can provide both malaria diagnosis and screening for drug resistance in around 15 minutes.

The device works by reading and sequencing DNA, and converting it into binary code using a tiny computer chip.

With the device proven in the lab, now the team is turning to crowdfunding site IndieGoGo to raise funds to take it into the field.

"We have spent years developing our tech and we now have a prototype device that has completed a sample-to-result malaria DNA test in under 15 minutes," O'Halloran told reporters.

"Contributions will help take our life saving device from the lab to the field and directly save lives. We have health workers around the world crying out for our technology and are now receiving the support of major NGOs, we just need help to finalize our development and drive the technology through clinical trials."

QuantuMDx CEO Elaine Warburton OBE added, "Our crowdfunding campaign is unique. Not only are we looking for contributors to support this phenomenally worthy cause to help save many hundreds if not thousands of children's lives, but we're also offering everyone the chance to leave a lasting legacy in the fight against malaria by contributing their winning ideas to the look and feel of our device and to take part in re-naming it from the current research name of Q-POC."

Malaria kills about 800,000 people each year.

At the time of writing, the project has not yet been released, although QuantuMDx has been raising support via its Twitter feed and YouTube channel.