New Technology Sheds Light on Blood
Claro Scientific is testing blood by using beams of light rather than chemicals.
Luis Garcia-Rubio found that a method of using light beams to analyze paint also could be used to study blood. He has been researching the technology for 30 years. [Photo: Atoyia Deans/St. Petersburg Times]
The basic technology that diagnostic labs use to analyze blood hasn't changed much in more than 30 years. For most tests, technicians add chemical reagents to a blood sample and cull data from the ensuing chemical reaction.
Claro Scientific, a 5-year-old University of South Florida spinoff, is touting its new technology to test blood by using beams of light rather than chemicals. The method was invented by Luis Garcia-Rubio, a USF professor who used it to study the components of paint before realizing it also could be applied to medical diagnostics.
"If you remember back in high school physics class, when light hits a surface or passes through a sample, it changes," says Thomas McLain, Claro Scientific's CEO. "The light can reflect. It can bend. It can pass through. It can get absorbed. Basically, when we take a sample, we shine light through it and get almost a million data points that quantify the sample, and our integrated computer model crunches through that data in a couple of minutes and gives us information about what's in there."
The technology, which uses a miniature spectrometer and proprietary software to analyze the samples, has other applications, too, from helping develop protein-based therapeutics to finding pathogens in food or water. Claro Scientific partnered last year with Path, a non-profit that works to improve health worldwide, to use the technology to test residents of developing countries for malaria and anemia.
The big potential, though, is in medical diagnostics, a $35-billion business worldwide. Claro's technology has the potential to change the industry, says Peter Betzer, who was dean of USF's College of Marine Science when Garcia-Rubio was a researcher there.
"It's a disruptive technology," says Betzer, now president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership.