Some of you might recognise the photo of PCR results above, the “dreaded gel” some might say. Me on the other hand, I saw this photo as an opportunity to make life for lab scientists easier and faster. I had a vision to create the “dyson vacuum” of the global genetic testing industry. Digital Test Tube (DTT) took me 37 months to develop, when I began the entrepreneurial journey at the young age of 20 in 2015.
PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction and is a process used to copy DNA in the laboratory. It is used for sequencing, cloning and diagnostic applications. From population genetics to the identification of the speed gene in horses, the PCR market is estimated to be worth $9BN by 2020.
Our video sums up the problems medical and CSI scientists are facing daily. It makes me sick! These people are still doing calculations, managing data on USB sticks & paper and labelling the results (a black and white photo) using the 33-year-old software Microsoft Paint! Imagine how much time this is wasting when there are people anxiously waiting on HIV results? I couldn’t believe this was still the case in some of the biggest labs we visited, and I knew I had to bring PCR into the 21st century to make labs more efficient.
I recently found a picture on Facebook below, that sums up the PCR nightmare pretty well, it had thousands of likes and jokes. The PCR process depicted here is known as “End-Point PCR” and is a qualitative process, still the technology of choice by many high-throughput labs. There have been other forms of PCR such as Real-Time, but since End-Point is still exponentially growing and is still favoured as the go-to method for thousands of molecular biology laboratories, I knew that I had identified a niche opportunity. I worked in a global IVD company, EKF Diagnostics and carried out research in the field of mitochondrial genetics in the Nutritional Genomics Laboratory in Dublin City University. As a result of these experiences, I wanted to finally expose the problems with End-Point PCR in both industry and academia and develop a solution.
It looks simple apart from the crying piece, right? Wrong! Contamination, suboptimal conditions, poor sample management and insecure data all contribute to a PCR headache, inaccuracies & rework. I wanted to create the world’s first fully integrated software, a digital “Personal Laboratory Assistant” if you like, but in a more politically correct way.
When we built The DTT Cloud Software, we tested it with scientists in WIT who managed to save up to 60% of time! This was a shock to the laboratory system indeed! They no longer had to label results using Paint & analyse them in file names on a desktop. Imagine being restricted to 255 characters when analysing 200+ DNA samples in a file name? It was like that feeling you get when you open a window in a stuffy lab – sheer relief! By saving this amount of time, DTT can now double laboratory throughputs resulting in significant cost savings and revenue growth for labs big and small.
A lot of laboratories will have a system called LIMS (Laboratory Information Management Systems). From Ireland to the U.S. I hear a lot of moaning and groaning about LIMS – “too expensive”, “difficult to configure”, “time consuming”, “not flexible enough”, “requires automation”. When a Principal Investigator, a QC scientist and the CEO of a genetic testing company trialled DTT, they agreed that “Life with DTT is like LIMS automated”. They were so impressed that DTT could label and analyse PCR results automatically.
My genuine hope is that laboratory personnel would sacrifice a few minutes to watch the walk-through video of The DTT Cloud. Thousands have and we have had an amazing response so far.
Our mission however, is to not stop with our campaign until every Conventional PCR lab can avail of our software service, no matter what demographic they are in – rich or poor, north or south, biotechnology or agriculture. We want to bring better and faster outcomes to the industry so to accelerate scientific research and facilitate the discovery of new cures and genomic breakthroughs.
DNA is likely to be the future of data storage, and we are also entering an era where genetic editing is growing at an unprecedented rate, so why not be a part of it?