Isolation, amplification, and detection of DNA and RNA sequences in so-called “molecular diagnostic” devices is at the forefront of modern diagnostic medicine. Such technologies offer unprecedented sensitivity and specificity in the detection of biomarkers for infectious disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses. These devices are typically very expensive, large, and require a modern laboratory and trained technicians to operate. These limitations severely restrict the use of molecular diagnostic tools in the developing world. DFA is exploiting our ability to perform autonomous fluid operations such as filtration, mixing, splitting, capture, and wash on patterned paper-based microfluidic devices to enable access to molecular diagnostic technology on an extremely inexpensive, disposable device platform. We believe our approach represents a fundamental shift in the field of nucleic acid detection and will significantly increase diagnostic capability in the developing world.
Specifically, as part of a DTRA-funded effort with Harvard University, DFA is developing nucleic acid amplification- and immunoassay-based paper-microfluidic devices for Brucella abortus.