We have developed an on-site diagnostic platform based on a unique qPCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology that can directly detect nucleotide-based biomarkers in whole blood specimens without the need for sample purification beforehand. This platform can be utilized for the early detection of major diseases and the determination of an individual’s genetic predisposition to certain diseases. Further developments are in progress for the development of this platform technology in the form of an easy-to-use and portable device.
This technology enables a simplified workflow, starting from the initial step of blood sampling to the last step of results representation in the form of a comprehensive report with medical recommendations. Only a small volume of capillary blood is required and this new process is virtually painless and easy to perform compared with traditional blood collection methods. After sample collection and analysis with PCR device, the results can be obtained in 1 hour. This represents time and cost savings for users, allowing for the advantages of PCR to be more accessible to small-size labs, clinics, doctor's offices and even to patients.
Our platform technology comprises three elements listed below:
1) An automated blood micro-sampling handheld device which can collect around 300 microliters of blood in 1 minute. The collection process starts when users place their fingertip on the device after pricking with a lancet. This device has a disposable cassette for storage of blood samples and a non-disposable handheld docking component, which provides energy for suction.
2) A portable qPCR-based device which can analyse whole blood samples in 1 hour to detect key biomarkers. Disposable chips have specific customized primers and reagents immobilized on its surface depending on the target diseases or conditions to be tested. One chip can detect various biomarkers from the same sample or the same biomarkers from various samples.
3) Artificial Intelligence component where it allows the system to estimate an individual’s health condition and provide personalized medical recommendations.
Our unique qPCR technology can be employed for both medical and research purposes. In different experiments, we have achieved high performance ratios for our technology in the identification of numerous nucleotide-based biomarkers including DNA and RNA.
Applications of our technology include:
The demand for rapid and on-site diagnostic tools has increased steadily during the last decade and this market is expected to reach USD 23.71 Billion by 2022. According to a report by Research and Markets, this growth is due to factors such as high prevalence of infectious diseases in developing countries, increased incidence of genetic diseases and the rising preference for home-based healthcare.
Similarly, the beauty industry is being shaped by the new concept of personalized aesthetics. DNA tests could indicate how our skin and hair may react to various therapies and products; or what aliments would be best for effective weight loss. DNA tests also provide insights into an individual’s predisposition to certain skin conditions.
In Taiwan, the weight loss market was valued at TWD 40 billion in 2013 and it is growing at a 5% annual growth rate according to a report by Medical Insight. At the same time, the anti-aging products market in Taiwan was valued at TWD 460 billion the same year according to the statistics from the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan. In addition to the huge market opportunities, genetic tests for beauty or lifestyle applications are less regulated compared with genetic tests for medical applications.