Professor Stewart Aitchison (ECE), Vice-Dean, Research, James Dou, Rakesh Nayyar

Lab-on-a-chip will revolutionize HIV monitoring in developing countries

Device is portable, affordable

The World Health Organization considers HIV a worldwide pandemic. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 22 million people are living with it.

James Dou, a University of Toronto PhD candidate in electrical and computer engineering, and his supervisor, Professor Stewart Aitchison, vice-dean (research) for the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, have developed an affordable and efficient lab-on-a-chip that can revolutionize HIV monitoring in developing countries.

Currently an HIV blood-testing device, called a flow cytometer, can cost up to $100,000. Dou’s patented lab-on-a-chip costs $5,000 to $10,000, and provides results in mere minutes. 
“Flow cytometers are for the most part concentrated in first-world countries,” said Dou. “Many countries in the developing world simply do not have the facilities or infrastructure to offer HIV monitoring.”

Dou’s affordable invention eliminates the need for those affected by HIV to travel grueling distances to a central facility. But in order to make the chip accessible to the even the remotest parts of the world, Dou and Aitchison had to bring the invention to the marketplace.

With the help of U of T’s Innovations and Partnerships Office (IPO) and Rotman School of Management, they and biological testing expert Rakesh Nayyar created the start-up company, ChipCare Corp.

“This proves how university research has direct and positive impact on people’s lives,” said Professor Peter Lewis, U of T’s associate vice-president (research) and acting executive director of the IPO.

With additional funding, ChipCare Corp. plans to shrink its current prototype from a size of a breadbox to a handheld version. Their goal is to deploy 100 devices to organizations in Malawi and Thailand in 2012.

Dou and Aitchison were recently featured in the Association of University Technology Manager’s (AUTM) 2011 Better World Report. The report is a collection of stories that chronicle an array of technologies that impact the world.


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