Tracking HIV progression (and whether or not you need meds) starts with tabulating T cells. But CD4 counts don’t come fast or cheap: Current tests cost about $30 a pop and demand a $75,000 machine the size of a refrigerator, plus several days’ wait for results. That’s why Harvard’s William Rodriguez, MD, and colleagues stirred up the recent Retrovirus confab with their new, superfast, supercheap CD4 test that’s nearly as precise as the standard. Put a drop of blood on a stamp-sized microchip device, stick it in a $600 digital camera–sized reader, and—presto!—Results in 10 minutes. All for a buck! Rodriguez says his easy-tote test could be a big-time boon for cash-strapped caregivers both here and overseas, where he says docs are “flying blind” by treating HIVers based on how sick they look. Despite the buzz, Rodriguez says he needs $5 million to bring it to market this year—no chump challenge since there’s “not a lot of sexiness around diagnostics.” Hey, since when isn’t fast-and-cheap sexy?
Markdown for the Count
June 1, 2003 • By Alyson Browett