Thanks to the Web and smartphones, we’re used to getting the data we need in the snap of a finger.
In the real world, that means you can be driving through a remote stretch of highway and find out who won the 1960 Olympic gold medal in fencing before the next song starts playing on the radio. You can download a high-def movie, complete with surround sound, in only a few minutes. You can ask a question of a colleague in Australia and hear back in seconds.
But when it comes to medical tests, the scene is still best described as “hurry up and wait.”
Even in our fast-paced, high-tech society, it can take several days to find out if you have the markers for cancer or a stroke. Or a deadly disease, for that matter.
That leaves many patients waiting, worrying, and wondering for days or even weeks. In some cases, lives are lost because of that lag.
That’s why I’m happy to report that a key U.S. research lab has developed a breakthrough medical testing device that can speed up the results of your lab tests. You’ll get results before you leave the doctor’s office.
It’s called SpinDx and it’s the brain child of Sandia National Laboratories. As the name implies, the system uses a spinning disk inside a portable instrument – much like a CD player – to manipulate blood samples. Researchers say it can measure a patient’s white blood cell count, analyze key protein markers, and process up to 64 tests from a single sample.
And all in a few short minutes…
I predict that by the end of this decade, SpinDx or a device like it will have a profound impact on the way doctors find and treat a wide range of diseases, from cancer to Alzheimer’s.
Not only that, but the new SpinDx could prove a boon to investors, too.
Turns out Sandia, the research lab that made the product, wants to find backers from the private sector who could help get SpinDx to market. In announcing the new milestone platform earlier this month, the Sandia team said it’s looking for a firm to license the rights to it.
This kind of activity is right up Sandia’s alley.
Known as an elite lab, Sandia makes it a steady practice to work with the private sector. It has a huge portfolio of cutting-edge tech that’s ready-made for licensing and technology transfers.
It even posts a long list of these projects on its website. You can browse a wide range of topics from biotech to nanoscience to software by clicking here.
Fact is, Sandia researchers boast a 60-year history of pushing the boundaries of high tech and science. A unit of defense giant Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE:LMT) runs the lab under contract for the U.S. Department of Energy.
With SpinDx, the idea is to take the platform to the masses, team members say.
“We envision medical personnel using SpinDx routinely,” said Greg Sommer, a Sandia team leader. “Instead of standard blood panels and costly lab tests, a SpinDx disk would be processed right in the office [while the staff is still] gathering routine data like temperature and blood pressure.”
The team touts the following features of SpinDx:
- Small sample size: Patients merely have to provide a pinprick sample of blood.
- Ease of use: Spinning disks will contain antibodies specific to each protein marker that denotes disease.
- Plug-and-play tech: For patient testing, a doctor can simply choose among a “cardiac disk,” “immune disk,” and other options.
- Low cost: The disks cost pennies to make.
- Quick response time: Doctors can have the results on their desktops in just 15 minutes.
But that’s not all…
The Sandia team believes the SpinDx could improve food safety and thwart bioterrorists attacks, too. In both cases, the U.S. wants to safeguard against one of the worst toxins known to man – botulism.
Now, a substance related to botulism is used safely to make Botox. Millions of people have had this substance injected into their faces to fights the effects of wrinkles. And when it comes to food poisoning, only about 145 cases in the U.S. are reported each year.
Yet make no mistake – this is deadly stuff. A small amount of botulism injected into the food supply would send shockwaves through the nation…
And the food-testing capabilities of SpinDx could be the fastest and most accurate method of detecting it.
“Food processing plants are looking for something that can be integrated into their assembly lines,” said Sommer. “Our device will be suitable because it’s fast, inexpensive, and simple to operate.”
Sandia is one of the reasons why I say high tech can save America. This time, I mean it literally. A device like this could save millions of us from threat of a biological attack. That alone makes it a great investment.