Diagnosis at the point-of-care

DMTC has worked collaboratively with lead industry partner Lumos Diagnostics (a wholly owned subsidiary of Planet Innovation) with support from Anteo Technologies and research partner Deakin University. The aim of the project to adapt an existing test cartridge to enable rapid testing and identification of a panel of defence-relevant infectious disease agents.

There is a clear military and civilian need for high sensitivity point-of-care (POC) testing as existing products offer limited performance and deployability. The DMTC team’s response to this requirement has demonstrated innovation and achieved significant technical breakthroughs.

The reader device has been specifically designed for use in the field – in any environment where ADF personnel are deployed. This has included ensuring sufficient battery power, small handheld form factor and wireless connectivity to enable real-time transmission of results to a command outpost.

Development activities to date have achieved increases in test sensitivity and specificity through novel chemistry modifications, and optimised design of both the thread used for testing and the test cartridge itself. To date the project has delivered a fully integrated diagnostic system with improved sensitivity, specificity and performance costs over current assay systems.

The project has also developed industrial capability across in-country SME supply chains to perform tasks that have historically been performed overseas. The DMTC team has demonstrated that the device known as Nplex can be used to rapidly identify defence relevant target pathogens, and meets the requirements of a mobile, high-precision diagnostic test which will enable the rapid detection and differentiation of multiple infectious diseases in the field.

Each assay cartridge provides the ability to screen for multiple infectious agents using a single low volume sample on one cartridge. Moving traditional laboratory-based tests onto the highly sensitive Nplex device will provide doctors and medics with valuable information to quickly assess, diagnose and treat patients without the need for specialist equipment.

The novel thread membrane used instead of existing paper-based nitrocellulose materials reduces variability of results and improves performance. In optimising the thread membrane and its production quality, the DMTC team has moved from an original cotton to an extruded polymer thread design. This work was conducted in collaboration with Deakin University and has progressed to feasibility level of development. Innovations applied to the polymer thread fibre have involved research into variables including fibre diameter, number of fibres, cross sectional shape of fibres and fibre configuration. An additional benefit of extruded thread is that it can be produced in very large quantities at low cost, making it highly suitable for high volume device manufacturing.

The project team was awarded the National Innovation Award in the Combat Equipment and Mobility category at the Land Forces 2018 conference and exposition.