A urine collector for kings and commoners

The FirstBurst puts a whole new spin on the Royal We. Joking aside, the invention is designed to help doctors in emerging nations do a better job of collecting urine for testing.

It's not the amount that counts--it's the first few milliliters.

That's the word from Helen Lee, an associate professor at the University of Cambridge, who invented the FirstBurst, that device you see in her hands. It captures the first part of a male patient's urine sample and seals it off into a tube. Those initial milliliters are the ones doctors need for testing. Lee hopes to see the device get shipped into emerging markets to help health professionals. (She has also invented a device for rapidly testing for chlamydia.)

Helen Lee and the FirstBurst Michael Kanellos/CNET Networks

The FirstBurst testing has been fairly rigorous. Her group has set up a simulated bladder in a lab that can hold about as much liquid as someone who drank seven beers. Lee has also conducted tests at a local pub. They set up a curtain and asked for volunteers. You need to do real life testing, after all, she said.

"It doesn't matter if you are left handed or right handed," she said. "One of the real surprises has been that men have just as many problems with aim as women do."

Lee was invited to Buckingham Palace to receive and award and met Prince Philip, who had a number of questions too, particularly about the direction for approaching the device. No word on if he actually tested it.

Lee, who has also started a company called Diagnostics for the Real World to help commercialize the device, was in San Jose, Calif., this week to receive an award from the Tech Museum of Innovation.

The FirstBurst (the name just sort of came up in a conversation once and stuck) can't be used to avoid stops on a road trip, she emphasized. It only catches the first few milliliters. It's a question she gets a lot.

 

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