Code Of Life:
You may or many not have heard of Davos, it is a small municipality in the region of Prättigau/Davos in the canton of Graubünden, Switzerland, and is home to the World Economic Congress which is a kind of forum/think tank of the powerful and mighty of global politics and business.
And what was the talk of this years Davos?
Ever so slightly in the face of the usual mobile technology articles that appear on mobile inquirer, this piece still relates to mobile technology, but has more to do with health…read on.
The world’s first mobile semiconductor-based gene sequencer:
Showcasing at Davos, this machine will offer mobile DNA sequencing and is based on its already very popular and larger older brother.
DNA sequencing is often termed the Code Of life and this machine will compute this with so much speed that Doctors will be able to assess a patients “issues” within minutes by accessing the devices data which after analysing a patients DNA, then suggests exactly what the problem is and allows the doctor to quickly deliver a suggested course of action to prevent issues such as disease progression, giving precious time to patients and health officials in general.
The new machine on show at Davos is a smaller version of an already available desktop semiconductor-based gene sequencer machine.
Superbugs quickly discovered:
There are many cases that would benefit form a very quick identification as to the strain of disease, for instance super bugs that plague health officials in hospitals or areas in general will be able to use the technology to discover the strain much sooner than currently allows meaning that treatment and an effective remedy to remove these would be in place quicker, potentially saving lives and money in the process.
Mobile DNA sequence testers:
In an even more amazing sounding development to the technology, it is suggested that the DNA sequencer will be able to be brought “in the field” using a mobile version which will be able to identify new viruses or test water quality in the open and in areas that are perhaps more difficult to get to.
Crime DNA tester:
Police officials will also benefit from the technology which will be able to quickly develop a potential suspects DNA profile saving potential time and allowing a team to focus on areas that would have perhaps taken a lot longer to assimilate.
Who is the DNA master then?
The man behind this technology is a German called Jonathan Rothberg, he is the master biotechnician and CEO of Ion Torrent, a company that is owned by US based Life Technologies who also produce the Ion Proton, the worlds first semiconductor-based gene sequencer.
Talking of the technology Rothberg says:
“It’s the first machine that can do an entire human genome for less than 1,000 dollars. It’s the first machine than can read the genome in two hours,”
With this new technology DNA samples are simply dropped onto a microchip of only an inch across, and then placed into the Proton which is similar to placing a SIM card into your phone, two hours later when the computational genius has worked its magic the 6 billion letter code of life is delivered.
Indeed the technology is so damn cool that the folks at Davos 2012 appear to have treated Jonathon Rothberg as a rock star of science such was the general gloomy topics covered by most of the attendees there.
Talking to AFP in Davos of the technology Rothberg continues…
“…previously machines would cost more than half a million dollars and it would take weeks to get information on your genome, the Proton instrument is designed to do discovery — find new genes that are involved in cancer, find new genes that are involved in autism, find new genes that are involved in diabetes, but it’s also designed to be used in a clinical practice to make sure that you give the person the right medicine or the right medicine to the right person. And to help diagnose new born children with ailments.”.
Technology based on larger model prior to desktop version:
As is usual in technology the predecessor was a more expensive and larger model that pretty much did the same thing, already the worlds best selling DNA sequencer, this earlier device was responsible for helping Germans figure out what strain of Ecoli broke out last year from food contaminated with the disease, the ability of the original printer sized device to track and work out what superbug they were dealing with is thought to have saved many lives.
“It was the precursor to this machine and one of the first chips we made that decoded that E.coli outbreak and allowed us to understand that superbug, track that superbug and have a diagnostic for that superbug.”
It is unique in being the only machine that uses a semiconductor to sequence genes, where previously any one looking to do research on DNA strands would have had to look through very powerful microscopes and work in this manner.
With many many areas of use for this technology, the main one that people are so excited about is health, and just how much this kind of technology can aid areas where outbreaks of disease are common.Anthony Munns