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Fall 2009
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Portable Mini-Lab Could Improve Disaster Response, Personalized Care

By Chris Bentley ’10



Portable Mini-Lab Could Improve Disaster Response, Personalized Care While some commercial labs are reeling from budget cuts and downsizing, Rheonix Inc. wants to shrink the lab until it is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

The microfluidics firm— formerly an entity of micro-electromechanical giant Kionix, Inc.—has developed a unique system called the Chemistry and Reagent Device (CARD™) that can automatically perform virtually any manual bench-top laboratory function in an area one-half the size of a standard business card.

Since it spun off at the end of 2008, Rheonix has been collaborating with Antje Baeumner, CALS professor of biological and environmental engineering, to develop applications for the technology in environmental sampling and health care. Rheonix has licensed Baeumner’s intellectual property related to this technology from the Cornell Center for Technology Enterprise and Commercialization.

“You tell it what tests you want to run, and it goes,” says Tony Eisenhut ’88, president and CEO of Rheonix. Using a CARD can amount to a huge labor savings, he says, because a single lab technician can perform the work of many by using the technology, “[creating] efficiency in the system that isn’t there today.”

As a platform technology, the CARD may free up time, money, and expertise in the laboratory with its “sample in, results out” format. Richard A. Montagna, PhD, senior vice president of Rheonix, hopes to make the CARD more user-friendly by adding electronic readout capabilities. “It’s an exciting aspect of our collaboration with CALS,” Montagna says.

Rheonix has received funding from several sources to integrate medical and environmental research onto its CARD system, including a $1.67 million award from the National Institutes of Health to develop point-of-care (POC) technologies for underserved and nontraditional health care settings. In rural clinics and disaster-response facilities, for example, the technology could aid in triage, allowing practitioners to quickly determine which patients need the most urgent care.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also shown interest in such POC technologies for their potential to efficiently assess the presence of water-borne pathogens. According to Baeumner, EPA regulations often make current methods of testing for water quality prohibitively expensive. Baeumner’s work with biosensors may help streamline this process by allowing plant operators to perform tests on-site.

Rheonix is hopeful for other POC applications, such as for personalized medicine. A CARD designed to test blood samples for their reaction to the blood thinner Coumadin, for example, could save weeks of dosage adjustments.