The portable medical device called Hoope is a ring that is placed in the thumb, contains a disposable cartridge with a retractable needle for single use and sends the data to a smartphone in less than a minute.
"Every year more than 500 million people around the world contract one of these four STDs, 50 percent of them have between 15 and 23 years of age. The problem is that 75 percent of them do not present early symptoms, therefore the need for an early detection strategy," said the mechanical engineer.
The project is developed in a Mexican startup at Silicon Valley. "There I met Damel Mektepbayeva, biotechnologist from Kazakhstan, and Irina Rymshina, Russian finance expert, the three of us decided to create Hoope" Rodriguez Leal explained.
He arrived to Silicon Valley through the Singularity University program consisting of a three-month stay at NASA, which brings together 80 people from around the world. "In this program I learned the tools needed to conceptualize social impact projects and transform the idea from the lab to an end product."
How does it work?
Ernesto Rodriguez Leal, native from Monterrey, in northern Mexico, and a PhD in mechanical engineering, told us that the ring is placed only at the time of the test, a button is pressed and activates a needle that draws blood, which is transported by capillary action and taken to a lab-on-a-chip, a recent concept based on immobilizing reagents to look for changes and make measurements.
Furthermore, Hoope has an anesthetic system by which an electrical pulse generates numbness, preventing pain at the time of the puncture.
The ring functions as a home diagnostic tool that distributes blood into four microfluidic channels. "We put antigens (substance that triggers the production of antibodies) specifically synthesized to catch antibodies for each of the diseases, their interaction functions as a lock and key mechanism. If antibodies for any of the conditions exists, the antigens trap them and produce an electrochemical reaction. "
After, these data is wirelessly transmitted to a smartphone or tablet, where an app gives results in less than a minute.
Rodríguez Leal said that the results are completely confidential and if they are positive it provides medical guidance through a map that gives the location of the nearest specialist to schedule an appointment. It has already been presented in the Startup Demo Day in Chile.
The device will be manufactured in China and will be available in January 2016 through an Indiegogo campaign. It will first be marketed in Mexico and the rest of Latin America, later in Europe and the United States.
It will have a price of $50, contain a ring and three cartridges, but an app specializing in sexual health will be released first.
"The first prototype was designed at the Colorado State University located in Fort Collins, it showed excellent results in the detection of syphilis, and we are working to perfect it for the other three diseases."
With this technological development researchers have won several international competitions, including Startup Mexico, Peru and Chile, the Google-DCamp in the Startup Nations Competition in Korea, best Health Startup at the World Tech Cup Challenge by Microsoft and was a finalist in the Hello Tomorrow Challenge, with which they have managed to finance the project.
Currently the team is in various countries to advertise and improve the device. Damel is in Kazakhstan and working on adapting Hoope for detecting allergies, cancer, diabetes and pregnancy. Irina Rymshina lives in Peru and is in charge of the administrative area, advertising and developing the app, while Ernesto is in Mexico perfecting the hardware.