$10M Tricorder XPRIZE set to launch in 2012

Last week we heard more from Eileen Bartholomew of the XPRIZE Foundation about the anticipated 2012 announcement of the Tricorder XPRIZE. Named after the universal medical diagnostic from Star Trek, the device should allow consumers to diagnose themselves, enabling people to become “CEOs of their own health.” There’s a huge potential for microfluidics to be involved with a point-of-care device like this, especially since lab-on-a-chip systems could facilitate ease-of-use and require smaller sample volumes (e.g., a fingerprick of blood vs. a vial of blood that would need to be drawn by a professional).

Specs so far:

  • Usable by consumers without aid from medical professionals

  • Single device with the ability to diagnose 15 diseases: 12 core-set diseases + 3 elective-set diseases. Examples: Hypertension, urinary tract infection, sleep apnea, sexually transmitted illness (STI)

  • High precision

  • Diagnostic results within 3 days

  • Probably linked to a mobile device like a smartphone (note the contest is being underwritten by Qualcomm)


  • Expected prize announcement in 2012

  • Duration of competition expected to be ~ 3.5 years long

The diagnostic sounds similar to several devices already out there (some launched, some in development) such as the AgaMatrix iPhone-connected glucose sensor, the Abbott i-STAT handheld blood analyzer, Boston Microfluidics’ STI diagnostic, and the Zeo sleep monitor, but with more demands in terms of usability and the number of features integrated into one device.

Will the XPRIZE motivate existing companies to collaborate? Currently many are struggling to launch a test that outputs one or two results, never mind 15. I also wonder how the 15 diseases chosen will affect marketing for the device. What if you’re a relatively healthy person who only needs 3 out of the 15 functions? Would you pay more for an all-in-one device like this, or are you more likely to buy individual tests based on your needs? How much use will be symptom-driven (urinary tract infection) vs. long-term monitoring of a known condition (hypertension) vs. screening (STIs)?

Are you planning to enter the competition?