Business

A strip reader that does it all

Research technician Claire Norton of GenPrime works with the company’s new universal test strip reader (in front of computer screen) Wednesday at the company offices in downtown Spokane. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON / The Spokesman-Review)
Research technician Claire Norton of GenPrime works with the company’s new universal test strip reader (in front of computer screen) Wednesday at the company offices in downtown Spokane. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON / The Spokesman-Review)

GenPrime may be first to offer the universal diagnostic tool

Spokane’s GenPrime team was looking for a device to use with a new product. The device – a lateral flow strip test reader – would be available for use with GenPrime’s new bacteria test system for blood platelets.

After not finding anything that did what it needed, the privately held downtown Spokane business built its own strip reader.

And the company now thinks it’s the only device of its kind in a billion-dollar industry.

A flow strip test reader is one of the medical industry’s most basic diagnostic tools. Testing for infectious diseases, drug use, heart problems and other diseases depends on samples of blood, urine, saliva or tissue being collected and attached to strips. The strips are then inserted into a diagnostic device to see the results.

Until now, according to GenPrime, no one had developed a universal reader – a single device like a universal TV remote that works with nearly every set or electronic device.

“We’ve searched but found no one else has done one,” said Buck Somes, GenPrime’s CEO.

In general, medical equipment makers produce specialized readers that handle one test or a specific group of tests. But each company’s reader only works for that test.

Developing a universal reader required two steps, Somes noted. One was having a high-quality optical scanner to read scanned test strips and make very accurate images, he said.

The second was developing a proprietary algorithm embedded in the reader that can interpret the density of lines on the strips and provide very accurate test results.

“For us, this is our first big product that is more based on software than hardware,” Somes added.

To date the big successes GenPrime has had are a bacteria tracker used in the fermentation industry and a dangerous-substance monitor sold to first-responder groups around the world.

A key step in developing the new GenPrime device, called the Point of Care Test Reader, was contracting with New Light Industries in Airway Heights to take on the software part of the project. At New Light, Jesse McGrew completed the software development. He has now joined GenPrime full-time, according to Somes.

GenPrime’s plan is to market its new readers to a variety of end users, said Darby McLean, GenPrime’s vice president of business development. Among the first target markets are pre-employment drug testing firms, physician clinics, hospitals and veterinarian labs, she said.

The entire diagnostic test-strip market, she noted, comes to about $1 billion.

The test device won’t be ready for another six to nine months while it is reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration, said Somes. He added the company has not set a suggested price for the reader.



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