Inventors: Ulrich Keyser, Mohamed Alawami, Max Zhu, Kaikai Chen, Cambridge Nucleomics
Cambridge Nucleomics is a new university spin-out company based on technologies developed at the Keyser Lab in the Cavendish Laboratory.
Using a combination of nanopores and single-molecule barcoding, the system is able to detect and count single molecules of DNA or RNA in a single 20 minute step. This is significantly faster and less expensive than current approaches such as RT-qPCR which need reverse transcription and DNA amplification.
The system can detect the presence or absence and quantify hundreds of different short RNA molecules simultaneously using low sample volumes and at low concentrations. This allows general screening for families of diseases, and the detection of diseases at an early stage.
Although the system has a wide range of possible uses, for the purposes of Medical i-Teams the focus will be the early detection of known cancer markers. For example, many studies collect more blood samples than they are able to screen using current techniques, and this technique could be a way to analyse the unused samples quickly and inexpensively.
Questions include which cancers would be most effective to detect using a test of this type, and what demonstrations would need to be carried out to confirm the efficacy of this technique. The team is also interested in identifying experts and organisations that would be interested in collaborating on the development and use of the technique in the field of cancer diagnosis.
[The technology involved in this project was the basis of an earlier i-Teams project in 2019]