Filipino doctor, research team win NIH grant for smartphone-based COVID-19 rapid test

Published November 11, 2020, 9:51 PM

by Richa Noriega

Filipino Dr. Rhoel David Ramos Dinglasan, along with his research team, was awarded a prestigious national grant by the National Institute of Health (NIH) of the US Department of Health and Human Services for their CLIP-CAM, a rapid smartphone-based saliva test for COVID-19 detection.

Dinglasan, a professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Southeastern Center of Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases, was among the six professionals tapped for the very first Technology Accelerator Challenge by the NIH National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).

Filipino Dr. Rhoel David Ramos Dinglasan

In a published report from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine’s website, the competition was held to encourage the design and development of innovative diagnostic platforms to address vital global health issues on sickle cell diseases malaria and anemia. 

The researchers were tasked to provide a solution that is accessible, low cost, and portable via mobile device.

(Courtesy of Dr. Bala Raja, Dr. Rhoel Dinglasan and

“We already had a test we developed for malaria, but this test will go further,” Dinglasan was quoted in the report from the report.

“This test will leverage existing technology to fill a pressing and unmet need in global public health by allowing us to differentiate between three diseases that can present similarly in terms of symptoms. As treatment and containment protocols differ for each disease, the proper diagnosis delivered in literally minutes could save lives,” he added.

According to Dinglasan, he was approached by California-based start-up company Luminostics CEO Bala Raja to collaborate on the challenge after reading the interdisciplinary medical journal Science Translational Medicine on the team’s report about their saliva-based rapid diagnostic test for malaria.

Through their joint effort, they created the CLIP-CAM which is an adapter attached to a smartphone that allows for a detection cassette to be inserted into a slot.

Dinglasan explained that it is a camera flash used to excite the detection system in the cassette, which can then be read by a smartphone app and results will be available in 15 minutes or less.

“The idea is more people can now use an app on your iPhone, with our adapter, with our test, and basically get tested within half an hour from the comfort of their own home,” Dinglasan said in an interview.

Dinglasan’s team received US$200,000 or approximately 9.7 million pesos for their entry in the competition.

Dinglasan said that the test will leverage existing technology to fill a crucial need in global public health as it allows differentiation between the three diseases that present similar symptoms.

He added that the proper diagnosis delivered in minutes could save lives.

“This challenge was written to address blood-borne diseases that have plagued public health and are endemic in many parts of the globe,” Dinglasan said.

The NIH Technology Accelerator Challenge was conducted with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the NIH Office of the Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the Fogarty International Center.