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World News – November 2008

Now, cancer diagnosis in 15 minutes

Diagnosis of life-threatening diseases such as cancer may become a matter of minutes as scientists have developed a new bio-sensor technology, which they claim provides results within 15 minutes.

“The technology uses antibodies to detect biomarkers – molecules in the human body which are often a marker for disease – much faster than current testing methods,” said co-researcher Paul Millner from the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds. The researchers are hopeful that the technology could be developed into a small device similar to a mobile phone into which different sensor chips could be inserted, depending on the disease being tested for.

“We've designed a simple instrumentation,” Millner said, “which will make the bio-sensors easy to use and understand. They'll work in a format similar to the glucose bio-sensor testing kits that diabetics currently use.” Currently, blood and urine samples are tested for disease markers using a three-decade-old method called ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immunosorbant Assay). The method, considered costly, takes more than two hours to complete and requires technical expertise.

“The new technology could be used in doctors' surgeries for more accurate referral to consultants and in hospitals for rapid diagnosis,” he said. Tests have shown that the bio-sensors can detect a wide range of diseases, including prostate and ovarian cancer, stroke, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and fungal infections. It also holds prospects for testing tuberculosis and HIV, the researcher claimed. The technology was developed through a European collaboration of researchers and commercial partners in a project called ELISHA.

EU consults on ICT 2020 research strategy

The European Commission has launched a public consultation into its 'no-holds barred' ICT research and innovation strategy over the next decade up to 2020.

The new ICT strategy promises to address key weaknesses in Europe's ICT industry and markets, as identified in the recent Aho report.

Contributions from industry, ICT experts, policy-makers and the wider public are sought to inform the new strategy for the new EU ICT research and innovation, to be unveiled next year. The Commission has specifically identified health and ageing as areas that will require imaginative ICT solutions. Over the past 15-years the EU has invested almost 1 billion in eHealth research and development.

The aim of the 2020 ICT strategy will be to put European ICT industry, especially SMEs, to the fore of the race for global competitiveness. The public consultation is open until 7 November 2008. “ICT is the primal force for innovation and development in the global economy, which is why Europe must attract investments in ICT research and development and the best minds and ideas,” said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. Reding added, “We also face challenges in energy, health and ageing that can only be tackled if we deploy ICT solutions.”

This consultation is part of the Commission's response to the report by former Finnish Prime Minister Esko Aho (MEMO/08/430), which found key failings of current ICT research and innovation in Europe.

The Aho report found Europe is under-performing in both the level and intensity of its research and innovation investments. Internationally 33% of research and innovation in developed economies worldwide is in ICT, but in Europe it accounts for less than 25%, mainly because it is highly fragmented. Furthermore, the EU represents 32%

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