The work of the ProtonDx team has been recognized in Best of British a government publication produced jointly with Malaria No More. a non‑profit organization that aims to end death caused by malaria.
Four years ago, Imperial College London established a cross‑faculty collaboration between the fields of medicine, engineering, and the natural sciences to develop novel digital diagnostic technologies for infectious diseases. The resultant technology – called Lacewing – is a lab‑on‑chip diagnostic platform bringing the sensitivity of molecular diagnostics usually found in a well‑resourced laboratory to the point‑of‑care, in a portable format with real‑time connectivity.
Lacewing is a handheld, battery powered, device using interchangeable cartridges to diagnose different infectious and non‑infectious diseases, with tests currently in development for malaria, dengue, aspergillus, SARS‑CoV‑2, and bacterial pathogens. The device will also be able to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections and detect antimicrobial resistance. The ability to differentiate between diseases with similar symptoms will help to detect new diseases that could be a threat to global health security.
Lacewing will connect to a smartphone with a user interface, providing data analysis, reporting and decision support. This means data can be reported in real‑time so that a response to epidemics or emerging threats can be mobilised immediately. Critically, the device uses a Bluetooth connection for the transfer of data to the smartphone, meaning it does not require internet or mobile connectivity at the point‑of‑care.
Research grants from the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund have been critical to the Lacewing project, as well as to the work of other UK partners in the Digital Diagnostics for Africa Network, an interdisciplinary and international community of experts established in 2020 to re‑imagine models of healthcare in Africa.
The Digital Diagnostics for Africa Network is currently composed of 71 members from 23 partner organizations in 11 different countries in the UK, Africa, Europe, and United States, and comprises researchers, representatives of not‑for‑profit organizations, and commercial organizations, with diverse expertise working collaboratively to develop and implement smart diagnostics in Africa.