The technology to make science-fictional STAR TREK medical tricorder has arrived. The Q-POC is a handheld device that, in under 15 minutes, can diagnose what a person's ailing from and if that same person has any potential drug resistance! It does this by analyzing the patient's DNA.
Q-POC's parent company, England-based QuantuMDx Group, has said: "Our goal is to shrink the laboratory and put it into the hands of the doctor."
Indeed, the Q-POC is similar to a smartphone, and yet has the added bonus of "provid[ing] the accuracy, sensitivity and specificity of a state of the art laboratory, at the patient's side and at a fraction of the cost," as described on QuantuMDx Group's website.
QuantuMDx co-founder and chief scientific officer, Jonathan O'Halloran, elaborated further: "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."
With the Q-POC's handheld diagnostic testing capability, rapid treatments are possible. This is especially critical in remote areas.
While the company began in England, it received some seed funding from South Africa, so a branch was started in Capetown. While there, the company realized how their technology could assist with diagnosing disease in developing countries. O'Halloran explained: "There's a real humanitarian need."
For now the Q-POC's diagnostic device will test for malaria. Malaria infects more than 215 million people annually. The Q-POC will be pre-loaded with a cartridge having data about malaria (i.e. thousands of malaria markers as data points for comparisons), which will be used as the benchmark for the diagnosis when a single prick of the patient's blood is scanned. According to O'Halloran, the Q-POC differs from other malaria diagnostic tests out there in that competitors only have one or two genetic markers as comparison points. But, the Q-POC's extra markers proved the additional bonus of helping to determine if the patient will be resistant to particular drug treatment regimens.
While the Q-POC is still seeking more investment funding (QuantuMDx Group has an Indiegogo campaign for the device), QuantuMDx Group anticipates future development of a Q-POC for tuberculosis.
It is anticipated the malaria Q-POC will cost up to $1000 per device, with each cartridge of marker data costing roughly $10 extra. QuantuMDx Group nonetheless states that the pricing will decrease as volume of sales increase.