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European Inventor Awards highlight progress in treatment of HIV, Parkinson's and cancer

The European Inventor Awards ceremony held in Lisbon highlighted some of the most outstanding scientific discoveries in the past year. The winner of the main award is poised to revolutionize HIV detection and treatment.

A new tool designed to diagnose HIV and other infectious diseases managed to garner two-thirds of votes in an online poll for the European Inventor Awards, winning the "Popular Prize" at the ceremony.

A team of Cambridge University scientists headed by hematologist Helen Lee developed the prize-winning diagnostic kit under the acronym SAMBA (Simple Amplification Based Assay). Results of the test are delivered in less than two hours, and are similar to a pregnancy test, with one stripe representing a negative and two stripes representing a positive result. The test currently costs about 15 euros ($17).

Lee says the device can help track diseases in poor areas and requires only one drop of blood:

"It's really quite simple; the patients come in and the sample is taken and that then gets tested. Within 90 minutes you get the results," Lee told the Reuters news agency at her laboratory.

Doctors Without Borders has already screened about 40,000 people for HIV with the SAMBA test in rural parts of Malawi and Uganda.

Wide array of awards

Other awards at the European Inventor Awards, which is organized by the European Patent Office, went to a new treatment for Parkinson's disease, a new magnetic imaging system designed to enable doctors to obtain instant 3D images of tumors, and to an ammonia-based filtering system reducing air pollution from diesel engines.

US chemical engineer Robert Langer also won an award as a non-European for the invention of biodegradable plastics that assist with the targeted delivery of anti-cancer drugs and have reportedly helped over a million people world around the world already.

ss/kms (Reuters, AFP)