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HIV Diagnostic Kit Wins Inventors Prize In Europe

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An HIV diagnostic kit has won a major European award. The revolutionary device can also be used to detect hepatitis B in just 2 hours.

The device called SAMBA, which stands for Simple AMplification-Based Assay, was created by Cambridge scientists led by Dr. Helen Lee. It is currently being used in sub-Saharan Africa, wherein approximately 20 million individuals are believed to be HIV virus carriers.

On June 9, the SAMBA device earned Lee the Popular Prize at the European Inventor Award where the inventors won almost 67 percent of the 57,000 votes in the online poll. The SAMBA device beat 14 other finalists. The Award was organized by the European Patent Office.

"The overwhelming public vote for Helen Lee recognizes her major contribution to the early detection and treatment of infectious diseases in areas most in need," said Benoît Battistelli, the president of the European Patent Office.

Lee described the simplicity of the device. Samples are taken from patients. The samples get tested on the device and after 90 minutes, results are produced.

The device can help doctors decide if the patient's current medications or treatments are working. It can also tell if the patients have developed resistance to the drug or whether they are infected or not. One SAMBA test cost only $17.

"So really you can get a result in 90 minutes of an extremely complicated test," said Lee, whose revolutionary device is also moisture- and dust-proof.

The inventors added that normally, these types of tests are done in machines as big as a Mini (car). What they've done is reduce the size of the diagnostic machines to the size of a coffee machine that "literally anyone can use."

SAMBA is able to simplify a very complicated and difficult test. This makes it an ideal tool for screening patients in isolated and far communities around the world.

According to the World Health Organization, about one in every 20 adults in sub-Saharan Africa is affected by HIV, which makes it the most severely affected by the disease.

In 2011, Lee's company, Diagnostics for the Real World, introduced the SAMBA diagnostic test. Since its debut, the device has been utilized in various tests screening 40,000 patients for HIV in Uganda and Malawi.

Diagnostics for the Real World is a University of Cambridge spin-off. The company has already raised $85 million in grants from various organizations, including UNITAID, the Children's Investment Foundation (CIFF), The Wellcome Trust and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

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