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Some of the poorest regions in the world may soon have a new test to diagnose AIDS in minutes.

A Cambridge, Mass.-based company called Nanobiosym claims to have a diagnostic test that can detect the presence or absence of a disease’s pathogen in an hour.

The test was developed at a research lab under Dr. Anita Goel, a Harvard-trained physicist and medical doctor, who is one of the earliest researchers working in the new field of “nanobiophysics” (a combination of physics, nanotechnology and biomedicine).

Dr. Goel is currently designing pilot tests of the technology, dubbed GENE-Radar, in Rwanda, where some 90 percent of HIV transmission comes from mother to the child at birth. According to Dr. Goel, that pilot is “moving along nicely.”

Nanobiosym’s first product is a medical device, which is about the size of an iPad. The test only requires a prick of blood or small amount of saliva from the patient. A medical worker then places this sample on to a nanochip, and inserts that chip into the device.

The test works by scanning bodily fluids for specific strips of genetic code, which signify an infection. Results are delivered quickly, and the test is designed to be cheaper than alternatives on the market.

It was developed for rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa — the device is portable, and no electricity or running water is needed.

Dr. Goel hopes that GENE-Radar is just the beginning for Nanobiosym. She hopes to team up with genetics and biotech companies to solve global health challenges. Currently, she is looking for potential partners to help bring to market a new application that can test for inflammatory markers, and alert people to a disease or condition early in its life cycle.

“We are building a network of strategic partners who are interested in being early adopters of our technology, and customizing it for different health apps,” Dr. Goel explained in an interview.

Nanobiosym is working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to gain regulatory approval for the GENE-Radar test, as well as other government agencies around the world. In October, the company won a $525,000 grand prize in a competition sponsored by Nokia, called the Sensing XCHALLENGE.


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