Expedition Genomics Lab

The mobile revolution in genetic analysis

Through the integration of a platform that allows on site DNA extraction and amplification and a new mobile sequencing device with cloud based analyses, DNA can be sequenced for the first time directly in the field freeing biological exploration from the constraints of large and expensive research laboratories and allowing real time DNA barcoding.

On May 4, 2015, the MUSE - Science Museum (Trento, Italy) and the University of Verona (IT) presented Expedition Genomics Lab, a technology innovation project developed in collaboration with Oxford Nanopore Technologies (Oxford, UK) and Biodiversa (Trento, IT).

Expedition Genomics Lab uses the first system that can perform DNA sequencing outside a controlled environment, as a laboratory. The DNA Finder by Biodiversa allows DNA extraction, purification and amplification with a battery-powered device without the need of special lab equipment like centrifuges and frozen chemicals. The portable DNA sequencer MinIONTM  and cloud based analysis system MetrichorTM from Oxford Nanopore Technologies, allows to sequence the DNA in any part of the world, as it is powered by the USB3 port that transfers data to a laptop computer. This portable lab brings molecular analysis directly in the field, revolutionizing biological exploration.

The first public test of Expedition Genomics Lab was performed during a press conference held in Trento, by Michele Menegon, researcher of the MUSE, and Massimo Delledonne, Professor at the University of Verona. A non-invasive biological sample was taken from a frog in Nkuka Forest, Tanzania (as part of an on-going project under the auspices of the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute), which was immediately released back into its environment. Using Expedition Genomics Lab, they sequenced the DNA of the wild frog species and sent the data via a standard smartphone to Oxford Nanopore’s cloud based application and to the MUSE of Trento. This allowed the team in Tanzania to determine in real time the identification of the sampled frog, providing live data to researchers based in Italy.

The innovative technology of Expedition Genomics Lab opens up a wide range of possible applications in all contexts where the portability of the system and the speed of the results can make a difference. It is the hope of the inventors that the low cost of the system and the autonomy from traditional labs, will enable its use in more regions and fields of biology.  Particularly in developing countries in the tropics where in many cases the lack of infrastructure dedicated to genetic analysis is a limiting factor for scientific research. Elsewhere, the potential fields of application of Expedition Genomics Lab extend from personalised medicine to customs controls, analysis of food security, crop science and environmental applications.

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