Published: Sept. 1, 2013 By

Doctors may be able to quickly and inexpensively isolate cancer cells to better target the disease with a new device patented by five CU-Boulder seniors and Wilbur Franklin, a CU Cancer Center researcher. The handheld device with a grip the size of an electric toothbrush allows the user to precisely extract cancerous cells from a microscope slide with a pump and expel them into a test tube with the click of a button.

“Existing techniques are either technical and expensive or low-tech like using a manual pipette to transfer cells,” Franklin says. “This device could make it possible for even small hospitals and labs to isolate patients’ cells for the genetic testing needed to prescribe the best treatments.”

The partnership between the students and the cancer center is part of the mechanical engineering department’s senior design class. Firms and independent inventors collaborate with five-person student teams to bring vision to design challenges. Only a handful of the projects lead to patents yearly.

For more information, visit and search “CU Cancer Center.”