Prof Jens Ducrée has received funding from Enterprise Ireland's commercialisation fund for the development of a new approach to CD4 cell counting for HIV diagnostics in low resource environments. The award received has a total value of >€300,000.

A key measurement used to stratify HIV disease progression is through the quantitation of the absolute number of a specific lymphocyte, referred to as a helper T-cell, in the blood. CD4 is a protein on the surface of a helper T-cell and the higher the number of CD4 positive cells, the healthier the patient. The fewer functioning CD4 cells, the weaker the immune system and therefore the more vulnerable a person is to infections and illnesses. The purpose of anti-retroviral drug therapy is to maintain a normal level of CD4 cells and thereby reduce the risk of opportunistic infections.

The current gold standard for CD4 counting is flow-cytometry (e.g. FACSCalibur from Becton Dickenson). However, these systems are extremely expensive, have a large footprint, require skilled operators and significant infrastructure. Consequently, these diagnostic techniques are not compatible with resource-poor settings.

The proposed approach is based on a new, centrifugal microfluidic technology, enabling highly accurate, individual-cell based CD4 counts in a compact-disc format. This "lab-on-a-disc" will interface with a fully portable, extremely low cost, maintenance-free and simple to operate instrument derived from a circa. $15 optical disc drive.

Through exploitation of the integration capabilities of the BDI, this project provides the opportunity to:

  • Exploit proven technology and capabilities to solve a global problem
  • Provide the basis for an Irish start-up company or an existing Irish company to build a leadership role in the CD4 test market.