UW Bioengineering Researcher Paul Yager developing paper-based lab-on-a-chip

Researcher in Paul Yager's Lab at UW

Researchers at UW are working toward paper versions of infectious disease diagnostic tests. Courtesy Clare McLean

Paul Yager, chair of the Bioengineering Department at the University of Washington, leads several subcontractors in two major grants totaling up to $26 million pushing the envelope on paper-based diagnostics. Their hope is that in two to three years, people miles from a lab will be able to cough, spit, or urinate on a piece of paper, upload the image on a cell phone and get lab-quality results for a range of illnesses.

“Imagine what could happen if you knew what kind of virus you had,” said Yager. “You would know whether you needed to go to the hospital or just go to bed.”

Yager said the code name for the technology that he and his colleagues (including research assistant professors Barry Lutz and Elain Fu, biochemistry professor David Baker, Seattle Children’s, PATH, Epoch Biosciences and General Electric Global Research) are developing is the “two-dimensional paper network or 2DPN.” It’s the next evolution of Yager’s “lab on a chip” technology developed with a $15m grant from the Gates Foundation.

The Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency first award to Yager’s team is for $4 million for 18 months. If the agency feels the team is on the right track, it will give them another $16 million. The National Institutes of Health also awarded Yager and his partners $5.7M to explore paper-based diagnostics for a more effective test of influenza. Yager said existing influenza tests aren’t sensitive enough.

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Current Projects at Paul Yager Research Group