Sickle Cell Anemia Detection
We recently partnered with Hemex Health, a start-up focused on innovative solutions to global health problems.
Portland, Oregon-based Hemex Health has partnered with Case Western Reserve University and Andrews-Cooper to commercialize the university’s scientific research in low-cost detection of Sickle Cell Anemia. The current state of the art requires costly and time-consuming laboratory testing to confirm a diagnosis.
The first product is a portable prototype device to take into the field in Africa and India to gather data on the efficacy of the detection method.
Andrews-Cooper was responsible for all aspects of the device development, including mechanical, electrical and software engineering.
The resulting product met all its requirements including:
- Controlled variable voltage and current of 100-500 V and 0-12 mA applied to the test blood sample.
- Assured operator safety in the presence of high voltage.
- High-resolution imaging of the test blood sample.
- Full day operation on a single battery charge with worldwide battery charging.
- One button touch screen control in the field and highly configurable operation in the laboratory.
- Rugged construction for durability in rough field environments.
The biggest challenge was to deliver a device with a short schedule and limited budget.
With both cost and time critical factors, Andrews-Cooper worked quickly to create a prototype solution with minimal custom parts in an effort to get a field-worthy device into the hands of the researchers at Case Western.
After the client approved this first device, we then manufactured 9 more to outfit the entire field team with devices. Some of the critical aspects of the work included:
- High Voltage: Andrews-Cooper engineers have years of experience designing high voltage medical devices. This device needed to deliver a fixed voltage or current set to a value determined in the lab prior to going into the field. The range of variability is 100-500 V and 0-12 mA. The device allows the operator to set the to voltage or current and then set the level using an on-screen slider with real-time measurement and display of output. The principal investigators can then simply establish a default for field testing.
- High-Quality Imaging: The actual diagnosis is made by offline image processing. Thus, the device needs to deliver high-quality images to ensure an accurate result. Fortunately, imaging is an area where Andrews-Cooper engineers have spent long periods of their careers and have deep expertise.
- Error Free Use: The device is designed for use both in the field by minimally trained graduate students and in the laboratory by the research scientists. We created a “one big button” user interface for the field and a full functionality interface for configuring the device in the laboratory. Andrews-Cooper engineers have prior experience in designing user interfaces for life support devices making this an easy task.
- Safety: Since the device could expose operators to dangerous voltages, a multilevel system of safety interlocks was designed to prevent accidental shocks. Again, our experience with high voltage medical devices came in handy!
- Scientific and Engineering Collaboration: This was very much a collaborative development effort with the scientists at Case Western. The requirements for the device were roughed out via the telephone and were very rudimentary. As development proceeded, Andrews-Cooper made discoveries that refined the requirements and improved both how the test needed to be done and how the samples needed to be prepared. This information was then fed back to the researchers so they could incorporate our findings into their protocol resulting in a win-win for all parties.