Moonshot: How a Blacksburg Engineer’s 3D Printer Could Forever Change Medical Testing
After taking 3D printing courses in graduate school at Virginia Tech, Elliot McAllister wrote a paper on the potential of using them to design microchips and other small devices. Little did he know, that idea might forever alter the face of medical test development.
For 30 years, little has changed for the people looking to develop new medical tests, especially those including microfluidics. The process involves creating microchips that allow a small amount of fluid in, perform a reaction, and release another fluid – like an at-home pregnancy test or strep throat test.
These “lab-on-a-chip” systems have been used by researchers for decades, but designing such chips takes multiple iterations before producing something patentable. After coming up with the idea, having the design masked and molded at separate labs, and constructing and aligning the small parts by hand, it could take eight weeks and thousands of dollars to run one test.
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