April 13, 2009

Biotechnology-Based Solutions from the Ground Up

One of the many problems with the health care system in Africa is the long distances between the rural population and physical locations of medical clinics. Some people have to travel all day to the closest health clinic, which creates an imposition particularly for those living on a sustenance existence. PointCare Technologies Inc., a privately held, FDA-registered, ISO-certified medical diagnostics company based in Marlborough, Massachusetts "designs 21st century, biotechnology-based solutions from the ground up." According to its website, PointCare's products "bring diagnostic capabilities to resource-limited urban and rural regions, enabling immediate identification and treatment of infectious diseases by healthcare professionals."

PointCare's goal "is to provide this same quality of diagnostic technology to people in developing countries. We do this by implementing new and innovative biotechnology" such as the PointCare NOW (pictured above), a near-patient HIV monitoring solution "designed to optimize precious patient-physician interaction" that "delivers diagnostic results in minutes at the point-of-care, enabling immediate counseling and care by the physician." With this innovation, "physicians are given the appropriate information required for monitoring and/or providing antiretroviral therapy against HIV." PointCare NOW's features include:
  • A DualZone platform that measures all essential haematology parameters, and both absolute and lymphocyte percentage CD4 T-cell results;
  • Compact, portable ready-to-use unit, designed to serve patients where they are;
  • Test results in less than 8 minutes;
  • Fully automated from start-up to shutdown;
  • Closed-cap sample handling – containment system complies with the highest industrial bio-safety standards;
  • Stores up to 8,000 patient records, expandable to 50,000 patient records and 50 control runs with supplied USB memory stick;
  • Dramatic reduction in the cost of reagent supply management--unlike traditional CD4 reagents, PointCare's are heat stable to 30°C therefore not in need of cold chain shipping or refrigerated storage; and
  • No calibration or complex setup required.

PointCare lists the following benefits of using their innovation:

  • Universal access – for the very first time, no matter where they live and from infancy to adulthood, everyone has access to essential hematology and HIV-immune monitoring;
  • Fewer visits – instead of visiting the clinic to be tested, and then returning another day for their results, patients only need to visit once for rapid one-stop testing and diagnostic results, and immediate counseling and treatment;
  • Portable – to reach more HIV patients you can set up the PointCare NOW at a different locations on a daily or weekly basis so it is always where it’s needed;
  • Easy to use – almost anyone can operate this innovative, fully automated solution with minimal training;
  • Improved operator safety – this fully closed, automated system with closed-cap sampling offers significant bio-safety features over other available hematology systems; and
  • Cuts hidden costs – heat-stable, long shelf-life reagents eliminate the considerable hidden costs of refrigerated shipping and cold storage, and enable bulk ordering.

The BBC News posted an article on April 12, 2009 about the value of PointCare's innovation by delivering HIV monitoring to the patient (see "Mobile technology battles HIV"). PointCare donated its equipment to a medical clinic in Bwindi, Uganda, which "has been able to monitor the health of patients with HIV from a clinic that fits into the back of their four-wheel-drive 'community ambulance.'" Enhancing the clinic's mobility is essential considering the transportation infrastructure is very limited and many patients live a day's walk from the hospital. Bwindi Community Hospital now provides health care for about 40,000 people including 1,000 HIV positive patients. (Photo of Bwindi Community Hospital staff with the traditional birth attendants and healers courtesy of BBC News)

The BBC News article quotes a physician with the Bwindi Community Hospital, "'Now our death rates from HIV are very low. We're able to diagnose it early, manage it early and keep people living with HIV fit and well. Over a reasonably short period of time, we've been able to change HIV from being a death sentence into something that people can live with and lead productive lives.'"

1 comment:

  1. I just blogged about this same product (after reading the BBC article!) at Social Enterprising! Best, Karol