The BioMaker Fayre at Cambridge University’s Department of Engineering was the culmination of the 2017 BioMaker Challenge. After presenting at the Open Technology Workshop, MakerNet’s Anna joined the judging panel reviewing the projects.
Aside from this being a fascinating opportunity to learn more about biology (did you know there is a plant that mimics the leaf shapes of other plants it grows near??) it was great to see some projects that have huge potential impact in low resource settings.
There was a low-cost machine to measure haemoglobin levels to help doctors decide whether a patient needs a blood transfusion or not – potentially saving either blood from being used unnecessarily, or a life. Not only is this device far lower cost than the product currently used, but crucially the only consumable item it needs is non-proprietary and widely available. This prevents a sadly all-too-common problem - where the expensive machines are found, they are often rendered useless by the lack of the special slides they require.
Another idea with great promise is a low-cost testing device to check the quantity of active ingredients in malaria medication – potentially a very useful weapon in the battle against counterfeit drugs, which are estimated to cause tens of thousands of deaths a year in sub-Saharan Africa alone.
We’ll be keen to see how these projects develop and whether, once they have been further developed and tested, they could be candidates for local manufacture.
The workshop day was also a great chance to catch up with Tobey Wenzel of Docubricks, with whom we are collaborating to test different platform options and documentation standards for open hardware.