Back in 2006, researchers at Caltech created a relatively small and cheap PCR machine that was commercialized as the Eco device and sold for $13,000. This was a breakthrough, allowing public health professionals to screen people effectively during a viral epidemic like that experienced from H5N1 bird flu.
While cheap enough and not too big for diagnostic work at a hospital, the Eco was still too bulky to use in areas where proper clinics don’t exist and the device required a bit of professional expertise to operate. To help tame disease in the world’s remote areas, and allow PCR testing to be performed by just about anyone, the same team that developed the Eco has teamed up with Nobel Laureate David Baltimore to create a new PCR machine that is smaller, lighter, and operates at the push of a button. It’s powered by a rechargeable battery and features a chip that can spit out test results for tuberculosis, HIV, acute lower respiratory diseases, and malaria, among others. The team hopes that the final version of the device will cost within $1000 and each test it performs will be around $5.
Caltech press release: Disease Diagnosis at the Touch of a Button