Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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Millions of people in the Global South suffer from neglected diseases, many of which could be treated, even cured, if they were detected early enough. But reliable, low cost diagnosis hasn’t been available, as drug companies have no incentive to invest in the diseases of the poor. New pandemics can go undetected until they have spread out of control, like HIV, and treatable ailments can cripple impoverished communities because it is too expensive to detect them early enough to do something.


Guido Núñez-Mujica, a Venezuelan computational biologist, is developing the LavaAmp: a portable, rugged, inexpensive thermal cycler that can perform reliable DNA tests for infectious diseases in low resource environments. LavaAmp is not a diagnostic method for one specific disease, but a hardware platform that can be used to test for many different conditions. Núñez-Mujica envisions LavaAmp as part of new, evidence-based Public Health approaches to managing both new pandemics and neglected diseases. Local governments and international agencies need cheap, accurate, reliable information about the spread and incidence of disease to plan and deploy an effective response. At less than one-tenth the price of current devices, LavaAmp would open the door to widespread testing for diseases, giving the world’s poorest people access to the kind of preventative medicine most people in rich countries take for granted. LavaAmp could also revolutionize education in tools in molecular biology for developing countries, educating the bio-innovators of the future.

LavaAmp makes a rugged, accessible, DNA diagnostic tool that can be used to quickly respond to pandemics and neglected diseases and educational applications of molecular biology. Read more about this interesting project and if you like it, consider donating to the LavaAmp at the Unreasonable Institute. Núñez-Mujica already has $4775 out of $6500 needed to fund this very cool project.

En Español:

Me puedes contactar en guido[en]lava-amp.com

Millones de personas en el Sur padecen de Enfermedades Olvidadas, muchas de las cuales podrían ser tratadas, incluso curadas, si fuesen detectadas a tiempo. Lamentablente, métodos diagnósticos seguros y de bajo costo no estñan disponibles, y las compañías farmaceuticas no están interesadas en desarrollarlos para un mercado que no puede costearlos, las enfermedades de los pobres. Nuevas pandemias pueden no ser detectadas hasta que sea demasiado tarde y estén fuera de control, como el VIH, aparte que dolencias tratables pueden destruir comunidades empobrecidas, porque es demasiado caro el detectar las infecciones en sus etapas iniciales.

LavaAmp hace posible una herramienta de diagnóstico confiable, robusta y resistente, ara responder rápidamente a las pandemias y a las enfermedades olvidadas, y con aplicaciones educativas accesibles a bajo costo. Si te gusta este proyecto, por favor apóyanos en el Unreasonable Institute:

Comments

  1. #1 Jim H
    March 3, 2010

    Thanks for the write up. We appreciate it. I like the Spanish version better: el termociclador portátil http://is.gd/9BocE

  2. #2 hibob
    March 3, 2010

    I remember thumbing through an eastern European molecular biology journal from the early ’90s that had a description of a DIY PCR machine using a dot matrix printer as the base. Basically strap your samples to the print head and set up water baths held at different temperatures along the print head’s travel so that the samples can be dunked in each. Hey, it probably worked as well as the first commercial machine.

    Combined with dry storage reagents (no freezer required) this could have legs. I’m surprised the Texas A&M connection isn’t generating funding to get it through this stage though.
    http://www.engadget.com/2007/05/04/mini-dna-replicator-costs-10/

  3. #3 Jim H
    March 4, 2010

    Hi bob,

    Maybe it’s not clear, but we (LavaAmp, Inc)licensed the technology through Texas A&M that you linked to. Apparently, they didn’t have any other takers, although we’re not certain the device in and of itself is patentable. There is prior art (due expire in the next few months) which seems to cover buoyancy driven PCR pretty thoroughly.

  4. #4 pcr
    July 7, 2010

    Can you give any more information in regards to how this device will stack up against standard industrial instruments as far as repeatability is concerned?