Sunday, August 16, 2009

iPhone Biodefense App

Right now it would be nice for people to be able to perform a detailed inspection of whatever environment they are in, and of themselves internally. As the future evolves, it could become an exigency. Portable personal biosensing devices for biothreat defense and medical self-diagnosis could become de rigueur, most logically as an extension of current mobile device platforms.

Hardware Requirements:

  • Integrated Lab-on-a-chip module with flow cytometer, real-time PCR, microarray and sequencing unit (genome, proteome, metabolome, lipidome, etc.)
  • Disposable finger-prick lancets
Software Requirements:
  • Data is collected and perhaps digitized locally, then transmitted for processing and interpretation via web services
What is the current status of the iPhone Biodefense App?
  • A. Order online
  • B. DIY with components from Fry’s
  • C. Have a roadmap, getting supplies and building tools
  • D. Homesteads and landgrab available to pioneers
  • E. “Ahead of the science,” aka it’s always 20 years out!
Answer: C. Have a roadmap, getting supplies and building tools
Single-cell identification, extraction and genotyping is starting to be possible from a research perspective (ex: Love Lab, MIT). Lab-on-a-chip functionality has been miniaturized (e.g.; small flow cytometers, small PCR machines). Now the trick is to integrate and add features to these systems, extend the functionality, shrink them further and reduce constraints. Microarrays and sequencing also have several innovation cycles ahead.

Key constraint: time
In addition to moving down the cost curve (most relevant for sequencing), performance time is the key constraint. Substances, expressed genes, blood biomarkers, etc. can be detected but it is taking hours and days when it needs to be immediate.

Declassify custom biodefense microarrays
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has one of the most advanced biodefense labs in the country. Custom microarrays have been developed for government agencies that the lab would now like to transfer into the public health domain. This could revolutionize and hasten commercial biosensing applications much like the declassification of adaptive optics revolutionized astronomy. At least three custom microarrays have been developed:
  • Microbial Detection Array: identify what a substance is
  • Virulence Array: identify how much damage a substance could do
  • Microbial Defense Genotyping Array: identify SNPs, indels

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