For the last two years, the US$2.25 million Nokia Sensing X Challenge has lured entrants from around the globe to submit groundbreaking technologies that improve access to health care. A panel of experts have awarded this year's grand prize to Massachusetts-based DNA Medical Institute (DMI), whose hand-held device is capable of diagnosing ailments in minutes, using only a single drop of blood.

The DMI team were selected from 11 finalists. Among them were Swiss team Biovotion, whose wearable computer monitors vital signs such heart rate and breathing, along with the US-based Eigen Lifescience team, whose low-cost, portable device is capable of testing for Hepatitis B in less than 10 minutes. But it was DMI's Reusable Handheld Electrolyte and Lab Technology for Humans system (rHealth) that impressed the judges most.

"Our expert judging panel reviewed a very exciting group of sensing technologies, all with the potential to address a wide array of diagnostic and personal health needs,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of X Prize, the foundation behind the competition. “DMI’s rHealth system embodies the original goal of the Nokia Sensing X Challenge, to advance sensor technology in a way that will enable faster diagnoses and easier, more sophisticated personal health monitoring.”

The rHealth diagnostic system requires the patient to provide just a single drop of blood, with this small sample mixed with nanoscale test strips and streamed past lasers to process its signature. This can then identify ailments ranging from simple colds, to the flu, to more serious diseases like Ebola, with claimed gold standard accuracy. It comes accompanied by a wearable patch which is worn to monitor vital signs, such as breathing and heart rate, sharing data over Bluetooth with either the device or the user's smartphone.

In addition to the portable device, DMI produced two other diagnostics instruments under the rHealth label, intended more for researchers in the lab and medical professionals. It developed the tools in collaboration with NASA and with space travel in mind, which it says pushed them to focus on simplicity and accuracy for their design.

“To be selected from such an impressive group of worthy competitors is extremely humbling, said DMI CEO Dr Eugene Chan. "Our hope is that the rHealth system, once commercialized, will enable consumers to monitor their own health while on-the-go in a more efficient manner and alert them of more serious medical concerns almost immediately.”

There are similarities between Chan's solution and last years winner, the Nanobiosym Health Radar. It too is a mobile device, which requires the user to place a drop of blood, saliva or other bodily fluid on a nanochip for analysis. It can then identify a disease's pathogen in less that one hour.

The X Prize foundation runs a series of global competitions designed to foster technological advancement. The DMI team is also a finalist in its Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, which tasks entrants with creating a medical scanning device, much like Star Trek's iconic tricorder.

While the team will need to wait until 2016 to see if it wins a slice of the $10 million up for grabs in the Tricorder X Prize, it will be content for the time being, taking home $525,000 as winners of the Sensing XChallenge.

You can hear from Chan in the video below.

Source: X Prize