BioFire Diagnostics – FilmArray Torch

Integrated Stacking System Solves Molecular Diagnostic Testing Conundrum

The Business Problem

Biofire Diagnostics LLC, based in Salt Lake City, sets the standard for molecular diagnostics through its pioneering advances in syndromic infectious disease testing. A few years ago, the French-owned company faced a serious issue. While its amazing Biofire FilmArray product could conduct multiple tests simultaneously for viruses, bacteria, parasites, yeast and antimicrobial resistance, it took up as much as seven feet of coveted laboratory bench space. This issue became a selling point for a gleeful competitor who suddenly emerged with a more compact system.

At the same time, Biofire Diagnostics faced another less pressing issue, but one that in the opinion of key executives limited the company from achieving its highest potential. The issue involved aesthetics. Visually, the Biofire FilmArray, designed by a firm with automobile industry experience, simply did not suggest that it was a serious piece of laboratory equipment.

The Client’s Challenge

The need to address the competitive threat was urgent, causing the company to engage MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) to simplify and miniaturize the Biofire FilmArray system on an almost impossible schedule. The assignment included:

  • Conducting design research
  • Designing the hardware
  • Designing the user interface
  • Conducting formative testing
  • Validating through final summative usability testing
  • Producing the FDA-required human factors engineering/usability engineering (HFE/UE) report required by the FDA

MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) started the project by conducting an intensive two-day “discovery workshop” to learn everything there was to know about the product, the user experience and potential future directions. Biofire Diagnostics engineers and other internal stakeholders were invited to share information. MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) ’s multidisciplinary team consisted of specialists in design research, industrial design, mechanical engineering and user interface design.

At the workshop, Biofire’s engineers presented a prototype. MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) brought human factors and ergonomic issues to the table, particularly with regard to the user interface. The assembled “brain trust” examined the issues at hand from all possible angles, leading to informed decisions that facilitated completion of the project on an extremely tight deadline.

Supporting the work of the Biofire engineers was a key to the project’s success. Later, the senior vice president for research and development remarked that MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) got to know his company better in two days than the previous design firm did over many years.

MindFlow got to know us better during their deep dive diagnostic kickoff than our previous partner did over 5+ years of working with us.

VP of R&D – Biofire Diagnostics

Our Solution

The BioFire Film Array, up to 12 testing instruments, a user interface, and bar code scanner are integrated into a single, stacked package that takes up just one-third of the previous bench space.

A new touchscreen display, eliminating use of a keyboard and mouse, is intuitive and smaller. It allows different users to enter information easily, leave and return to read data without introducing confusion between users or risking mistakes. Besides achieving the advantage of higher through-put, tests take less time. And smaller laboratories may now economize and gain flexibility by purchasing systems with fewer testing instruments and adding more later on if needed.

Also, no longer is there a gap between the brand’s promise and product aesthetics. A distinctive visual brand language aligns the Biofire FilmArray Torch’s appearance with how Biofire Diagnostics wishes to be perceived in the marketplace. Further, the investment in developing the brand language will simplify the task of designing future products.

The new instrument allowed Biofire Diagnostics to meet a competitive threat. Subsequently, the Biofire FilmArray Torch won the “Prix du jury” award at the Journee Internationales de Biologie laboratory medicine trade show in Paris.


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