Year/Course: 2021-2022, Easter 2022
Project type: Development

Inventor: Dr Samuel McDermott, Physics & autohaem
Mentor: Dr. Bill Matthews

Blood testing is a key diagnostic for a wide range of diseases and conditions. Reliable blood testing requires a high-quality and consistent process for making blood smears. While this tends to be assumed in high income countries with proprietary automated blood smearing devices, in low income countries blood smears are still produced by hand, with as many as 81.5% of the blood samples being prepared incorrectly. In practise this means that many patients are not able to access an accurate diagnosis because returning to the clinic to get another sample taken is not always possible or affordable.

The inventor aims to address this with the autohaem design, which was first developed as a result of research into automating the diagnosis of malaria. autohaem, a member of the Centre for Global Equality’s Inclusive Innovation Cultivator, has developed an open source hardware design which enables the automated production of consistently high-quality blood smears, and which can be manufactured locally using 3D printers. Automating the smearing of blood samples onto microscope slides produces high quality slides with a higher throughput. The product prototypes have been published in the Review of Scientific Instruments and the initial business concept was a semi-finalist in the 2020 Cambridge Enterprise PostDoc business plan competition.

The challenge for the i-Team is to investigate the best market entry strategy for autohaem. Questions include which countries have the greatest need for such a device and whether they should focus on rural or urban clinics. The team will also look at the market for pre-manufactured devices supplied by autohaem as compared to the market created by supporting local manufacturers to make the products from the open-source hardware designs.

Additional information:
Automating blood smears, Naked Scientist podcast
Automating Blood Smears for Easier Malaria Diagnosis, Review of Scientific Instruments, News item
autohaem: 3D printed devices for automated preparation of blood smears, Review of Scientific Instruments 93