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Particularly suitable for the screening of newborns in developing countries 

A quick test to determine the levels of free bilirubin in the blood

12.07.2011 -

A test strip for the quick measurement of total bilirubin in the blood, even outside a hospital environment. Bilirubin plays a major role in neonatal jaundice and can potentially damage the central nervous system due to its ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier.


It is for this project that the young Argentine researcher, Carlos Coda Zabetta, representing the Innovation Factory "Bilistick" development group, the start-up incubator of Trieste AREA Science Park, received one of the €30,000 prizes awarded by Working Capital-PNI - the initiative of Telecom Italia and PNICube (Association of Italian University Incubators) that supports young talent in the field of Italian innovation and promotes the creation of start-ups.


The new, first level quick diagnostic system (with a patent pending) is particularly suitable for use in screening projects in developing countries or in isolated parts of the northern hemisphere. Here, monitoring in the first few days following childbirth is necessary for non-Caucasians, whose skin colour means that the onset of jaundice, resulting from abnormal levels of free bilirubin, is difficult to spot.


In many of these countries, due to the lack of healthcare facilities and the way the population is distributed across the territory, it becomes crucial for qualified health care professionals (professional nurses/laboratory technicians), although not necessarily medical professionals, to be able to operate beyond the Point of Care.


In addition, since there are currently no test strip systems on the market capable of performing the type of analysis carried out by Bilistick, there is also a potential market in developed countries. Here, bilirubin levels are measured in laboratories with a several hour wait for results and there are cases where suspected abnormal levels are sometimes subject to unnecessary treatment at an estimated cost of $500-$600 per patient.


The team

The idea was born thanks to the inspiration of Dr Richard Partridge Wennberg from the University of Washington, Professor Claudio Tiribelli, Director and Cristina Bellarosa, Deputy Director of the Fondazione Italiana Fegato-ONLUS (Foundation for the Study of Liver Diseases - non-profit organisation).


Together with Innovation Factory, the AREA Science Park incubator, they created the "Bilistick" development group. The Consorzio di Biomedicina Molecolare in Trieste (Consortium for Molecular Biomedicine), Microlab srl in Padua and the University of Trieste have also since joined the team.