INSTEAD of only in the laboratory, biological research in the field of genetics, evolution, paternity, analysis of traces of murder on the spot, in the future will be possible in the woods, at the crime scene, in an abandoned place.
The “culprits” for that are the students of the Faculty of Biology at the University of Belgrade, who made a portable, autonomous PCR device, which they called – Amplife. The invention also brought them victory at the recently held Danube Cup, a competition of innovative ideas and entrepreneurship in the form of pitching competition. Our young researchers plan to improve their device and create a world-famous brand of portable laboratory equipment that originates from Serbia.
Petar Omrčen, one of the team members, in an interview for “Novosti”, reveals that Amplife is used to amplify a certain segment of DNA molecules. It is a device that is intended for work outside the laboratory, be it a forest, a crime scene, a rural area, which does not have easy access to the health system. The method of work is based on the ability of one enzyme (Taq polymerase) to “survive” at very high temperatures – 98 Celsius.
– Our device can be used for testing on SARS-CoV-2, but it would not be the test that would be accepted at the border crossing – explains Omrčen.
– Since the PCR method is crucial for almost all research dealing with the DNA molecule, Amplife is suitable for various biological research in the field of genetics, evolution, molecular biology, zoology, botany (all using the PCR method), paternity determination. Forensics can be helpful at the crime scene, as well as in diagnosing genetic diseases.
Our interlocutor points out that the advantages of their product are, above all, that it is portable, unlike the standard, laboratory version, which is quite large and depends on the electricity from the socket. The Amplife does not require a laptop to be set up, nor an external battery to power it. The device has its own battery as well as its own logic, which allows all parameters to be changed on the device itself or via the phone, as there will also be an option to connect to the mobile phone application.
– We started working on the project in 2019, with the idea of a “do it yourself” device, so that we could do PCR ourselves and learn something more about the method itself – says Omrčen.
– We took the device to the faculty to see a molecular biologist and a forensic scientist. We received positive comments from them, but also a suggestion that if we could make it portable, we could be on the path to something big. It was their support and advice that motivated us to try to make a portable PCR device.
OMRČEN states that the team had the great support of the Faculty of Biology, which has been with them from the beginning.
– We received a lot of help with testing the machine and gaining new knowledge from CHMG, where I must especially point out Marko Panić, a young entrepreneur and doctor of molecular biology, who took over the role of our mentor – says Omrčen.
– Without the help we received from the faculty and CTT, we would probably have stopped working on our device a long time ago. Also, domestic companies and individuals helped us in the procurement of parts that are not available in Serbia and their production.
Testing the first prototype of the device, the young researchers worked at the Faculty of Biology, with the help of the Center for Human Molecular Genetics (CHMG). As Omrčen points out, they got excellent results that match the commercial devices.
– We now face a challenge, more financially than technically, to develop a prototype that would have the appearance and all the functionalities, as a device that we would produce – says our interlocutor.
– The production of the device is certainly possible and we would like to open production in our country. We want to create a world-famous brand of portable laboratory equipment that comes from our Serbia. This requires a lot of money and a lot of other things that we have to learn, but that is something we are striving for.
MEMBERS of the winning team “Perun” are students of the Faculty of Biology – Petar Omrčen and Marko Marković, as well as graduate master software engineer Milan Šuša. The team also includes Radovan Subotic, an electrician, and Boris Zonjic, who deals with the issue of industrial design.
Danube Cup is a competition of students from universities from the countries through which the Danube passes – Serbia, Germany, Austria and Hungary, from any field (science, business, IT). Among the inventions were an air purifier based on bacterial organisms, a mental health application that provides help to people in need at the time, a platform that financially helps students studying abroad and operates on the principle of donations, a smart home application and an online platform for fans of RPG games.
The students received one grant, through CTT, for the development of the final version of the device, but, as Omrčen points out, that is not enough to complete the work on the device. He adds that 20,000 euros are quickly spent on the petanque application, various services and the necessary equipment for the development of the device itself. They are currently applying for several more grants, so that they can complete the work on the final version of the device and make a sufficient number of final prototypes for testing.
Source: Novosti.rs RSS – Današnje vesti by www.novosti.rs.
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