Cytometry for Life Founder climbs Mount Everest

Dr. J. Paul Robinson, PUCL Director has just returned from Nepal having sucessfully summited the world's tallest mountain at 29,035 ft.


"My major motivation in climbing is to raise awareness of the devastating problems of AIDS in resource-limited countries and entire continents like Africa."


Dr. Robinson’s goal is to raise money for Purdue's nonprofit "Cytometry for Life" program, which is developing low-cost diagnostic equipment to help HIV/AIDS victims in rural Africa receive treatments.


Robinson has paid personally for his training and previous expeditions, as well as the Everest trip, so that all donations go into the C4L mission.


To follow his progress, please visit .


Read an article about this climb in "Inside Purdue."


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Scientists Bring Solutions to AIDS testing in Africa

Scientists at Purdue University have developed a program to effectively attack a very difficult problem for AIDS patients particularly on the continent of Africa. There are many problems, but one problem that has been plaguing health care providers across Africa is the inability to monitor blood lymphocyte levels in patients. This simple test is current run on very expensive, very complex instruments that are difficult to maintain even in very advanced laboratories. They have little chance of working efficiently in rural Africa where the greater majority of AIDS patients are. The Cytometry for Life program will bring a battery operated, very low cost, highly reliable lymphocyte counter to any location needed. It's a simple, elegant, low cost solution. It's a solution that Africa cannot afford to have.

What is the "Cytometry for Life" program?

Cytometry is a field of science that has been around for about 50 years. It is the study of cells and their environment. The living cell is the smallest independent operational unit of the body and understanding how cells work is what cytometry is all about.

When cells fail to work, there are serious consequences - like cancer for instance where some abnormal cells take over the body with disastrous consequences. In AIDS, a virus takes over a very important cell, the CD4 lymphocyte. It destroys the cell and eventually the patient cannot survive.

Cytometry really started about 50 years ago with the invention of simple cell analysis tools like the Coulter Counter - a machine that counts blood cells. This was followed by an instrument to sort blood cells into different populations and this instrument was called a cell sorter - a type of flow cytometer. In the 40 years since the invention of the cell sorter by Mack Fulwyler, a revolution has occurred within the world of immunology, primarily driven by innovations of Len Herzenberg and others as cytometry matured into a powerful technology in medical research and clinical practice.

Today however, there are between 30 and 40 million individuals in resource-poor nations infected with the HIV virus who desperately need to receive antiviral therapy. There are two primary reasons why they don't get it. First, the cost is high. Many individuals are working hard to reduce the cost of this therapy. Second, in order to receive therapy, each individual must be monitored for his/her CD4 levels. This is primarily done by flow cytometry. Unfortunately flow cytometry is complex and expensive in today's technology-focused world.

It should not be. Cytometers can be made very inexpensively. The technology is 40 years old. It has matured to a point that, while next generation ideas are important, they are not the best solution for the immediate problem of AIDS patient evaluation for CD4 levels in Africa today.

The Cytometry for Life program aims to achieve the following goals in two primary stages

Stage 1:

  • Reduce the cost of CD4 measuring instruments to $5000 or less
  • Reduce the cost of a single test for CD4 to 50 cents or less
  • Build instruments that do not require large power or computer sources
  • Build instruments that are robust, very easy to use, and yet very high quality
  • Protect all technology and reagents under the management of the Cytometry for Life program

Stage 2:

  • Develop a manufacturing model for widespread distribution and management
  • Develop a reagent program that supports the instrumentation and functions in remote areas
  • Link with Agencies to facilitate distribution to places of need and provide long term maintenance programs

Current Partnerships

The Cytometry for Life program was initiated by individuals in the cytometry community who want to make a difference today- both academics and business people. The goal is to create a program that has as its primary goal, saving lives by using current-day technology at the most effective level and at the lowest possible cost.

The consortium has already been successful in raising over $250,000 in funds. We have set two funding goals for the program. First to raise $1 million to get the technology and the reagents designed and robust. Our second goal will be to raise another $4 million to deliver the technology across the nations of need to save those lives from the pain and agony of AIDS to give these individuals at least a chance of raising their children, educating them and giving them an opportunity to impact their families well-being. This project will change the lives of millions of people, not only in Africa where we will initiate the program, but in many other resource poor nations.

You can help [watch our audio/PPT presented at the World AIDS Congress]

The "Cytometry for Life" program needs your help to achieve our goals of very cheap tests for AIDS victims in Africa.

  • Consider what charities you can donate to
  • Read "Race against Time" by Stephen Lewis - this alone should convince you of how big the problem in Africa is
  • Contact your congressional representatives and tell them they need to do more
  • Support your local scientific community to research the fundamental issues in AIDS
  • Participate in the Cytometry for Life Campaign - see the donation page




We are trying to get quality input into our CD4 project. In order to do this we have created a detailed survey that contains many questions about the CD4 assay and the conditions under which it is needed and carried out. Regardless of who you are or where you are from, we would like your opinion. In order to properly analyze the data however, we will need to know something about you - your experience level, your knowledge of the field, where you are located, etc. You can answer the general questions without identifying yourself, but we would like to have your complete contact information if possible so that we can continue to work with you on this project.

The survey can be found on the SPONSOR page of this website.


Download our Podcast from World AIDS Congress, Mexico City, Aug-08