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Kazakhstani invents device to diagnose sexually transmitted diseases 04 сентября 2014, 00:44

Damel Mektepbayeva, junior researcher at Nazarbayev University, has developed a device that rapidly diagnoses sexually transmitted diseases.
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Damel Mektepbayeva. Screenshot from the team's project video Damel Mektepbayeva. Screenshot from the team's project video

Damel Mektepbayeva, a junior researcher at Kazakhstan's Nazarbayev University Research and Innovation System, has won a Singularity University GIC and developed a device for rapid blood testing for sexually transmitted diseases, Tengrinews reports.

This was the first time that the Singularity University, NASA Research Park held its Global Impact Competition for Kazakhstan, and it specifically targeting outstanding teaching assistants and young researchers employed in schools and research centers of the Nazarbayev University.

The participants had to submit an idea that used technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges such as poverty, energy, education, global health, safety and environment.

Damel studied Biotechnology Chemistry in Indiana University and then got her Master's in Biotechnology from Ecole Normale Supérieure in France. So she chose the global health challenge and submitted a project idea to solve cancer. The Kazakh researcher's idea was so good that it won her a free spot in the Singularity University Graduate Studies Program 2014 that otherwise costs $30,000. 

Damel's June - August studies at Cingularity University began with 6 weeks of training that included seminars, hands-on workshops, discussions and tours to leading technology companies where she could get first hand experience in various kinds of technologies topping the Silicon Valley.

After that Damel Mektepbayeva from Kazakhstan teamed up with three other outstanding researchers - an MIT alumnus specialising in robotics and innovations Dr. Ernesto Rodriguez Leal from Mexico, a software engineer from Poland Pawel Jarmolkowicz and startups and IT expert from Ukraine Irina Rymshina. 

"We had three week to come up with an innovative product using technologies that can help one billion people in ten years time. It could address the health, energy, food or any other global challenge. We chose health," Damel said. 

Together the team of four developed a device they called Hoope that looks like a ring, but severs a very different purpose. It is an affordable, painless and rapid one step blood tester for STDs - sexually transmitted diseases.

"Nowadays STDs screening requires an embarrassing old-fashioned slow procedure with little privacy. Our product redesigns the whole experience making the process simple, instant and affordable. It works by combining together antibodies detection and microfluidic chip into one beautifully designed ring," Damel said describing the invention.

Hoope can identify four of the most common STDs: syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydiosis and trichomoniasis in just one minute. 

The device consists of two key parts: electrodes that block the pain, and a microfluidic chip that makes the test using very small amounts of blood and sets of antibodies.

The ring is paired with a mobile app for the person to see his or her test results and find additional information about STDs.

Here is the team's project video.

"The technology was tested at NASA and Stanford laboratories. First the electrodes in the ring come in, and the person's finger stops feeling the pain, the needle follows in a split second releasing a drop of blood from the finger onto the microchip. If any of the STDs are found in the blood the ring signals about it with its lights," Damel said.

"So far we have designed it for four STDs, but it can be adapted for making blood tests for cancer, ovulation or pregnancy. Basically, this ring can be used to test blood for any disease," she explained.

The team of four co-founded Hoope in the Silicon Valley and patented their invention.

"We are now considering different investors. The University of Michigan has contacted us, investors from Korea and from Skolkovo (innovation research center in Russia) are also ready to cooperate. Besides, we are now applying for several grants in Mexico. We are looking for investors, and we are planning to start producing the rings this or next year," the Kazakh inventor said.

By Tatyana Kuzmina (Assemgul Kassenova and Assel Satubaldina contributed to the story)


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