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Hedley LaMarr
13th August 10, 03:43 PM
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7149755.html


Rice University senior Andy Miller took on a school project last year to design a highly functional but portable, low-cost microscope. Eighteen months later, health care workers in the developing world may have a device to diagnose disease where people live.
Using off-the-shelf parts and a minimalist approach, Miller invented a 2 1/2-pound, battery-powered microscope that a new study shows is just as good at diagnosing tuberculosis as hospital machines that retail for $40,000. Miller's costs $220.
"What Andy did, the ingenuity he showed, was remarkable," said Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Miller's adviser and a professor of bioengineering. "I never thought he'd take the assignment so far."
Edward Graviss, director of the Methodist Hospital Research Institute's Molecular Tuberculosis Laboratory, said the device could have "a huge impact in the developing world," where people routinely delay or defer treatment because they are too far from facilities that can confirm they have a disease.
Graviss said the microscope would allow health care workers to more rapidly get people with TB on medication and isolate them so the disease doesn't spread. Some 1.3 million people a year die of TB, most in Africa, Asia and South America.
The device, named the Global Focus microscope, also is expected to diagnose malaria and parasites. Studies have not yet been conducted with those samples.
Simple but powerful

The microscope is the latest Rice low-tech, portable invention aimed at the developing world making a splash this year. Previously, two students transformed a simple salad spinner into a centrifuge capable of diagnosing anemia, and another team developed a portable pump for babies with weakened lungs.
The microscope's path began in February 2009 when Miller, then just returned to Rice after a year in Barcelona, asked an institute professor for a design project.
It didn't take long for a response. The institute had been developing "a diagnostic lab in a backpack," but was hampered by microscopes that required expensive protective foam padding, left little room for much else and had limited diagnostic capabilities. Could he make a better, smaller, cheaper one?
"Ideas leapt out of my brain like horses at a racetrack," remembers Miller, a bioengineering student. "I didn't know if any'd work; I just figured I'd take them one at a time."
Miller, now a designer for a San Francisco-area company that makes ventricular assist devices, worked 12- to 16-hour days to come up with a working model. He made a rugged plastic shell with a 3-D printer. He used flashlights for illumination. He built a shelf on which cell phones slide to capture images to e-mail to labs.
By May 2009, Miller had a finished product, so compact it can be shipped in a lunch box, so simple that five screws separate the shell from the one-piece body. It magnifies 1,000 times.
Such power proved effective in the study, published last week in the journal PLoS ONE. Blind testing 63 specimens controls and TB smear samples from Iran - the team obtained similar results with the microscope and Methodist's most sophisticated instruments 98.4 percent of the time. Said Graviss, "You're not going to miss anything using one of these."
Miller, a Texas native who descends from a long line of doctors, traces his success to a love of design that grew from playing with Legos as a kid to welding furniture in his high school art barn at The John Cooper School in The Woodlands. But most of all, he credits that school's art teacher who taught him, "There are no new ideas, just new combinations of ideas" - the philosophy that informed the microscope.
First for an undergrad

The achievement earned Miller 2010's M. Rich Invention Award, presented annually by the Rice Engineering Alumni to a Rice faculty member or student. It marked the first time an undergraduate has won.
Twenty of the microscopes are in production and expected to be ready for fieldwork next month. Rice researchers are designing studies that, if successful, should lead to greater commercialization.
Of course, the Global Focus microscope was intended as a humanitarian advance, not a money maker. Miller, now living in Berkeley, Calif., and enjoying its Bohemian atmosphere, is the first to note he's not going to get rich off it - which is fine by him.
"The project was about an opportunity to contribute to global health," said Miller, acknowledging it helped him land a top job out of college. "It was a great motivator, what kept me in the lab so long. This wasn't just a toothbrush I was designing."

I applaud the humanitarian aspects of this microscope. I'm honestly surprised such a thing isn't already on the market. I'm all for anything that gives doctors out in the shit a better chance at fighting disease.


Here's what's bothering me: some guy builds a microscope for roughly $220 that, at least according to this article, matches microscopes that cost about $40,000. Why the fuck are high-powered medical microscopes so expensive? I understand that it's pricey to build high-power microscopes, but 40k?

Commodore Pipes
13th August 10, 03:57 PM
I hope he got some patent protection on this.

bob
13th August 10, 04:49 PM
I'd say the university owns it.

Kein Haar
13th August 10, 04:52 PM
Finally we can see Poop's penis and Lily's self-awareness.

bob
13th August 10, 05:14 PM
And your empathy and tact.

And your sense of shame.



OOOOOOOH BURN!

Commodore Pipes
13th August 10, 05:15 PM
I'd say the university owns it.

Not always. UW Madison lost millions because they failed to patent botulism strain 79-11 and someone they gave sample to for research did.

WarPhalange
13th August 10, 07:20 PM
Here's what's bothering me: some guy builds a microscope for roughly $220 that, at least according to this article, matches microscopes that cost about $40,000. Why the fuck are high-powered medical microscopes so expensive? I understand that it's pricey to build high-power microscopes, but 40k?
There's got to be more to it. But I think it's also a case of supply and demand. You wouldn't believe how ridiculously expensive lab equipment is. It's all because there's only a handful of buyers. So if the kid wanted to start selling this shit, there are only so many people that would take one and they wouldn't need to replace it until it broke.

It's completely ridiculous, but at the end of the day, if he wants to do this shit for a living, he has to make money off of it, and that means jacking the prices way up.

Kein Haar
13th August 10, 07:21 PM
And your sense of shame.



OOOOOOOH BURN!

And your negative qualities.

OOOOOHHH PRAISE!

ALL HAIL!

WarPhalange
13th August 10, 07:21 PM
I'd say the university owns it.

There's usually a clause somewhere that specifies how much the university owns. At my school, you get 35% of the profits and up to an extra 15% towards research. So if you call it quits, you don't get that 15%, but if you decide to stick around and do any kind of research, you can use the profit money for it.

bob
13th August 10, 10:32 PM
$220 is probably what the components cost. So if you can find someone to build it and ship it for free, you're laughing.

Hedley LaMarr
13th August 10, 10:33 PM
$220 is probably what the components cost. So if you can find someone to build it and ship it for free, you're laughing.
I doubt shipping and cost of production will exceed $38,000.

HappyOldGuy
13th August 10, 11:21 PM
There's usually a clause somewhere that specifies how much the university owns. At my school, you get 35% of the profits and up to an extra 15% towards research. So if you call it quits, you don't get that 15%, but if you decide to stick around and do any kind of research, you can use the profit money for it.
I strongly suspect that only applies to grad students/researchers.

I'll bet that undergrad homework assignments are all the students.

WarPhalange
14th August 10, 12:13 AM
I doubt it only applies to grads and above. In my current lab we have three undergrads helping out. Some labs give the undergrads even more freedom and responsibilities. Getting in a patent doesn't seem too far-fetched to me.

But the deal here is that there were a bunch of people working on that one patent, so most of the time the money is split so many ways that it doesn't come out to much in the end. Still, it's always free money after that point, right?