We've wanted to write about Diagnostics for All and their paper diagnostic. The fact that they just won one of 19 awards in the Saving Lives at Birth grant competition sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, Norway, the World Bank, and Grand Challenges Canada makes this the right time to do so.
Imagine that you could print out a sheet of tiny diagnostics on a printer in say Malawi or Nepal, and that each sheet of paper could be cut into a few dozen tiny units that were essentially labs on a chip. This act of printing would be the sum total of the manufacturing process. These little chips could be taken out to remote locations and used by minimally trained health workers to detect anemia, high-blood pressure and hypo- or hyperglycemia.
Much has been written on the elegant simplicity of the paper. In short, tiny channels in the paper guide small samples of blood or urine through to wells that hold reagents and unleash a series of chemical reactions releasing different colors when the sample meets the chemical. What we need to know is that paper slips costing about 10 cents each will change color with great specificity and sensitivity to reveal conditions that could save maternal and newborn lives.
This scenario is exactly where Diagnostics for All wants to take us all. Printers and paper, manufacturing in the hands of the countries that need it and thus the higher probability that the innovation will reach scale.