You wouldn't know it from appearances, but a metal cube the size of a toaster, created at the University of Alberta, is capable of performing the same genetic tests as most fully equipped modern laboratories—and in a fraction of the time. At its core is a small plastic chip developed with nanotechnology that holds the key to determining whether a patient is resistant to cancer drugs or has viruses like malaria. The chip can also pinpoint infectious diseases in a herd of cattle.
Talk about thinking outside the box. Dubbed the Domino, the technology—developed by a U of A research team—has the potential to revolutionize point-of-care medicine. The innovation has also earned Aquila Diagnostic Systems, the Edmonton-based nano startup that licensed the technology, a shot at $175,000 as a finalist for the TEC NanoVenturePrize award. “We’re basically replacing millions of dollars of equipment that would be in a conventional, consolidated lab with something that costs pennies to produce and is field portable so you can take it where needed. That’s where this technology shines,” said Jason Acker, an associate professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the U of A and chief technology officer with Aquila.