The Newton microscope concept evolved from a challenging set of design criteria: to create a robust, portable, affordable microscope capable of diagnosing tropical disease at the health periphery. The resulting product, the Newton NM1, is not only an instrument capable of convincingly achieving those original objectives, but it is also well suited to a range of other applications from healthcare to field science, general microscopy, micro-photography and veterinary pathology.
Despite the emergence of other field microscope designs over the last half century, no other instrument has fully satisfied these stringent requirements – the provision of a portable microscope with fully integrated lighting, XY indexing and high quality optics capable of diagnosing the blood-borne protists including malaria. The World Health Organisation recently reaffirmed its conviction that microscopy remains the ‘gold standard’ for the diagnosis of malaria despite the availability of RDTs (Rapid Diagnosis Tests). Unlike RDTs the microscope, in capable hands, is able to diagnose a wide range of tropical diseases at far less cost per patient and may also make a significant contribution towards the mapping of disease prevalence.
Keith Dunning with the Nm1 at The Health Show, BBC World.
A combination of innovative design, simplification and the application of modern manufacturing processes and materials have made the Newton a reality.
The designers collaborated extensively with senior academics, field researchers, and scientists in the field of tropical medicine to ensure that the Newton is perfectly suited to the needs of healthcare professionals, especially those operating in ‘first point of call’ health facilities in the remote tropics. The instrument’s development program included laboratory equivalence testing, culminating in practical field trials in tropical locations for the diagnosis of malaria and the NTDs (Neglected Tropical Diseases).
Newton Microscopes, the vehicle for the design and development of the Newton, was founded by Keith Dunning and Rick Dickinson. The founders also became trustees of the Millennium Health Microscope Foundation, a not-for-profit charity formed to attract development funding for the Newton and to generate future donations to enable the Newton Microscope to be gifted in resource poor settings in the developing world.
Newton Microscopes is greatly indebted to the Wellcome Trust for funding from the Trust’s Technology Transfer Award scheme and to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for funding to develop further variants of the Newton Microscope. The designers are further indebted to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine for their advice and assistance during the development of the microscope and in particular to Professor Russell Stothard at the WHO Control Centre for Schistosomiasis whose encouragement resulted in the development of the Newton Microscope.
The Newton microscope was launched at a seminar and workshop at the World Health Organisatation in Geneva in April 2013. The Newton Nm1 is now available from the Newton Microscopes website. Sales through the website facilitate significant discounts to the developing world to fulfill the need for affordable microscopy at the health periphery.