A seven-member team, including one emergency room doctor, won $2.6 million this week for their new tricorder-esque invention called the DxtER. The iPad-based system weighs less than five pounds and can diagnose 34 health conditions, including urinary tract infections, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.
They created it for the Qualcomm XPrize Competition, which was announced in 2012 and challenged 312 participants to create a device under five pounds that could diagnose 13 health conditions. Obviously, the winning team, Final Frontier Medical Devices, far exceeded that number.
The system walks users through the diagnosis steps while analyzing data collected from its noninvasive sensors. Its blood test, for example, monitors glucose, hemoglobin, and white-blood cell count through a finger cuff instead of a lancet. They used three 3D printers to manufacture 65 DxtER units at home. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offered regulatory guidance to the team throughout the competition to help them prepare for a possible FDA review. While the device has been tried in people, no results have yet been published.
A second group, Dynamical Biomarkers Group, won the $1 million second-place prize. Their device connects to a smartphone and includes three modules: a Smart Vital-Sense Monitor, a Smart Blood-Urine Test Kit, and a Smart Scope Module.
While neither of these kits are as easy as a tricorder, and still require a significant amount of hardware, it’s cool to think of a day where we might not have to rush to urgent care for something diagnosable. It’d also probably save us money on expensive lab tests, although I’m not entirely sure what you’re supposed to do after confirming you have an infection and need antibiotics stat. I guess go to a doctor after all.