September 18, 2009

Rapid Diagnostics

One of the big areas of growth in medical research around the world at the moment ($US30 Billion and growing) is rapid diagnostics. Basically this means that diseases, viruses, conditions etc., can be diagnosed in a simple, cheap and fast manner anywhere on earth. The prescribed treatment can then be administered, saving time and money on expensive lab analysis.

Innovations in rapid diagnostics are set to change the face of health care as we know it - they reduce the number of tests required, their associated charges, and limit casual antibiotic use and improper prescription of drugs. They allow community surveillance by informing physicians quickly about what agents are in the community, and furthermore, their simplicity and speed allow high throughput screening which can be done using nurses or trained individuals instead of doctors - freeing up the best medical professionals to do what they do best - solve complex medical problems.

An example from the last decade is pregnancy test kits which can now predict whether or not a woman is pregnant to a good level of accuracy, without the need to go to a doctor. With the level of chronic diseases such as diabetes (usually confined to developed countries) on a dramatic rise in underdeveloped nations and global pandemics such as the recent Swine Flu, the need for results straight away is becoming more crucial.

There are a few NZ companies that are leading the way in this area - Veritide Ltd, a start up in Christchurch who make detectors for anthrax spores, and Izon who make patented nano pore's for the detection of specific viruses. Check them out - they're doing some incredible work.

This year the NZ Venture Investment Fund announced they are looking to invest $10 million into new medical technologies. Hopefully the result of this is a few more companies in this area that NZ could benefit from.

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