There is a scene in the movie Take the Money and Run where a young Woody Allen plays a cellist in a marching band.
Instruments in the field less funny:
To a medical researcher in the field working in the remote regions of the world, a microscope can be every bit as cumbersome as that cello.
Every year, a million people die from Malaria, and a billion people are at risk. Diagnosis requires a heavy, hard to lug around microscope.
Microscopes are persnickety:
Microscopes are finicky and prone to breakage in harsh conditions.
And that means diagnostic capability really hasn’t been scalable in certain parts of the world.
Enter a disruptive technology:
Yes, folded paper.
The microscope reimagined:
Seeing as how the microscope hadn’t changed in more than 70 years, it was really due for an update.
Professor Manu Prakash and his team from Stanford University have created The Foldscope, microscopes that are waterproof, paper thin, easy to fold into place without written instructions and resilient even if stomped on or dropped from a great height.
Some have been tailored to detect certain diseases (like Malaria) and all read the slides that traditional microscopes use. That means there are fewer adjustment for medical technologists to make in using this new fangled thing.
And the cost?
50 cents per Foldscope. 50 cents. Pennies to save hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of lives or more for every microscope produced. Diagnosis now within reach of a billion of the world’s most vulnerable people.
Want to help?
Professor Prakash and the Foldscope team are looking for 10,000 beta testers from all walks of life and a cornucopia of professions and jobs to help crowd-source a manual and experiments around it.
Go on. You know you want to.