A simple and cheap handheld device to diagnose anaemia, the second leading cause of disability affecting over a quarter of the global population, is in beta testing after winning the world’s largest business plan competition in May 2014

MedCity is now partnering with the OneStart competition, founded by the Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable in 2013 to provide mentoring, facilities and funding for exciting young biotech entrepreneurs – find out more here.

EVA Diagnostics, OneStart’s 2014 winner, was founded by Imperial College London Research Associate Toby Basey-Fisher and is based on new optical analysis techniques developed at the College. Toby decided to focus on anaemia because, while its consequences can be profound – causing fatigue, organ damage and even death – most cases, once diagnosed, can be easily treated with nutritional supplements.

However, accurate diagnosis of the different types of anaemia can be challenging. A large proportion of people with the condition have limited access to sensitive hospital-based analysers, and most diagnosis is done in point of care settings using basic devices that measure haemoglobin levels in red blood cells. These lack the ability to diagnose the type of anaemia an individual has – such as iron deficiency, which typically causes a reduction in the size of red blood cells, or vitamin B12 deficiency, which causes them to increase. Without this information, opportunities for effective, person-specific treatments are greatly reduced.

AnemiStat, the device under development by EVA Diagnostics, uses new portable analysis techniques developed in Imperial’s Department of Materials to create a handheld, battery-powered tool that can not only identify anaemia but can also assist clinicians in diagnosing a cause by analysing cell count and size.

By using disposable test strips AnemiStat requires less than a drop of blood to perform its measurements, which complete in under two minutes. It is low-cost enough to be affordable for community health clinics in developing countries, and easy and intuitive to use.

The team has now developed a beta prototype for trialling in target countries such as Rwanda, South Africa, Malawi and Ghana. They also plan to use the technology to develop a handheld point of care device for conducting a complete blood count.

Toby credits OneStart with helping the company get to this stage. He says:

“It’s a truly enabling investment, but the contribution has been far more than financial. The mentoring and advice from the industry partners has been brilliant, and the networking opportunities provided by the competition were a major catalyst in developing the company’s management team.

“The many stages of the competition has connected Eva Diagnostics with entrepreneurs, investors and other members of the biotech community who have been hugely valuable in opening doors for us to new commercial possibilities.”

The next round of submissions for OneStart opens on 1 October – see more here.

Find out more about Eva Diagnostics here.