The Ozcan Research Group at UCLA is setup as a mini-MIT Media Lab on the West Coast, with a growing team of creative engineers pushing the limits of innovation to create smartphone attachments, some of which are quite simply breathtaking.

We first covered Professor Aydogan Ozcan‘s “lens-less” microscope LUCAS in 2010 here on iMedicalApps. In 2011 his smartphone microscope peripheral device was named innovation of the year by The Scientist.

Ozcan recently announced he has secured $2.5 million seed funding (then under the name Microskia) from a strategic investor, as well as $383K from the National Institute of Health (NIH) small business innovation research (SBIR) program, for his startup Holomic, which will commercialize the technology developed in his lab.

The most recent smartphone attachment developed by Ozcan’s lab is a digital “universal” reader for all rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), such as home pregnancy tests, even drug and STD tests, which require no translation of the results. RDTs are one of those things you see all the time, possibly everyday, without ever thinking much about how they work, but they can save lives and in some cases can be bought on the shelves of most pharmacies.

One of the problems with RDTs today is that they are qualitative and thus can be prone to operator error. Sometimes, they even require expensive readers. In nearly all cases, test results are not automatically recorded for health professionals and caregivers.

The picture below shows just how simple the device is, and with a price tag of $10 it reminds me of the $2 EyeNetra device for diagnosing refractive error.

Raw images of the tests are digitally processed in less than 0.2 seconds/image through a smartphone application for validation of the RDTs as well as for automated reading of its diagnostic results.

Once this device is available commercially it could enable accurate and cost-effective large scale use of RDTs for better health care delivery, monitoring and geo-tracking of emerging epidemics, and help public health authorities with epidemic preparedness.

Check out the video below of the RDT device demo.