Last week we reported on the success of the mChip lab-on-a-chip HIV and syphilis test in its first field trial. For some further information, we got in touch with Samuel K. Sia, associate professor at the department of biomedical engineering at Columbia University, who was one of the leading researchers in this study. His lab focuses on using microfluidics for global health diagnostics and for 3D tissue biology and he is one of the founders of Claros Diagnostics, the company responsible for commercializing the mChip diagnostic platform.
1. How long did it take you to develop this chip and what difficulties did you encounter?
We started the work in 2002 when Vincent Linder and I were postdocs in George Whitesides’ lab at Harvard. Taking a proof of concept, even if one that already works in principle, to something robust in the field has required a large part of clever engineering and development, much of it at Claros Diagnostics.
2. Are there any further/larger trials planned with the current device?
We are always planning more trials, both with the version published in the most recent study as well as other versions.
3. How long do you expect it will take until this or similar devices will be used in practice in developing countries?
If funding and resources were not constraining, we think we can get significant adoption within 2 years.
4. The reported sensitivity and specificity are very high. Could it also have benefits in the Western world?
Yes. Claros Diagnostics has developed a prostate cancer monitoring test that can be used in portable settings. This version gained the CE Mark in 2010 (i.e. approval from European Union).
5. In what other diseases is the mChip applicable, any criteria a disease needs to meet? Will future versions be able to give quantitative results as well?
The Claros version already provides quantitative results, so that is an ability this technology can already accomplish. We are limited to diseases with validated protein markers, but that includes many conditions, including infectious diseases, cancer, and many other conditions.
In addition to this interview, here are two videos about the lab-on-a-chip technology: