LavaAmp and the Unreasonable Institute
Posted by Jim H on February 5, 2010
Even though there is a lot going on in Fredcobio in terms of news to report, I have been spending most of my “free” time working a contract at MedImmune, setting up my cell culture lab with the help of AFAB Labs to get my Stem Cell project with FiberCell Systems up and running and spending a lot of time working on the LavaAmp project.
The project is taking off with terminal velocity. The web site is up and running (thanks to Eric at SyncHaven), we have a bold new logo, Guido is in the finals for the Unreasonable Institute’s Finals and preparing for the BIL 2010 Conference in Long Beach CA.
Here’s Guido’s page from the BIL2010 web site:
GUIDO NÚÑEZ-MUJICA – LAVAAMP: POCKET PCR FOR PENNIES
About the Talk
A buoyancy based device, dubbed the LavaAmp, is able to perform PCR faster than regular thermocyclers, for extremely low cost, and is easily of manufactured and operated. The LavaAmp will also be portable and battery or USB powered, programmable, and able to communicate with smartphones and computers. The LavaAmp hardware will be as open as possible, completely customizable and hackable, so it can be adapted to new purposes and suit the needs of its users. Currently, the detection of the amplified DNA has to be done by conventional agarose gels, however, a variety of methods could be used for in situ detection for the next versions of the LavaAmp. The coupling of DNA detection in a handheld device means quick, effective and even automatic detection of plant and cattle pathogens, food-borne bacteria and diagnostic of antibiotic resistant infections with no need of cumbersome culture tests, not always available. Such a device would allow better surveillance of emerging pandemics in risky areas.
This would improve our collective reaction time against pandemics and extend the reach of the PCR for solving needs currently unmet because of cost and portability. Portable Personal PCR can be attractive for diagnosing neglected diseases in a clinical setting or used by hobbyists and schools: Is this sandfly infected with leishmaniasis? Do you want to teach your kids the real science behind CSI? Do you want to perform your own paternity tests? The LavaAmp can solve these problems and answer these questions, it is an extraordinary tool harnessing the power of PCR and taking it outside the lab, allowing anyone to become a citizen scientist.
And in more, cool LavaAmp news Rob Carlson (a principle at Biodesic, LavaAmp’s Engineering design firm and LavaAmp shareholders) was on the Economist in late December in a panel discussion along with Dean Kamen (DEKA Research, inventor of the Segway), Dwayne Spradlin (Innocentive), and Kai Huang (Founder of Guitar Hero). Check it out on his blog post. Rob also talks about the LavaAmp in another blog post yesterday “Bits, Atoms and the Future of Manufacturing“
We continue to refine the hardware design of the LavaAmp, and it looks like we have the production hardware down to 5 or 6 components, 4 of which are injection molded plastic. The labor will only be in assembly of the final box, as all sub-assemblies should all come off automated fab lines of one kind or another. All the real cost is in the design and tooling — once we get up and running the per unit costs should be quite reasonable.