This will open up the field. People will be able to use the MinION in their kitchens to verify the contents of their ready-made lasagna (does it really contain beef or is that horsemeat?) or use it for surveillance of pathogens and allergens. Oxford Nanopore is even planning to go one step further with the SmidgION: a DNA sequencer you can …
Dr. Sophie Zaaijer
A few problems here. First allergens are proteins and there are no DNA based methods of any consequence in the allergen testing market. That is because testing for the presence of allergen genes is not really done for lots of really good reasons. Unless you have a protein sequencer in the works I am not sure why you would suggest a DNA sequencer would be of any value for allergen testing. Even if allergen gene presence/absence testing were useful the requirement for PCR to first amplify up the specific gene target makes this a non-starter for home kitchen or phone plug in device. And yes I know you are working on this. I am as well. Lol. See my other comment.
Same problem for pathogen testing in foods but even way way way harder. The pathogens of interest and concern in the home like E. coli O157:H7 other STEC and Salmonella have infectious doses of between 1–10 CFU or lower. Listeria monocytogenes ID50 a bit higher but still probably <10000 CFU. That means to determine if the hamburger patty you are about to eat is safe (lets just say it is 25G for convenience sake) you need to be able to detect a single E. coli or Salmonella cell in that entire 25G patty. You cannot do that without enrichment by culture or significant sample prep/concentration steps. You cannot do enrichments or even basic, let alone sophisticated sample prep in the home, therefore this tech is useless for that purpose in the home. Notice that the word surveillance is used. That is because the manufacturers of this technology know all of this (or God I hope they do) and realize they could get in deep shit if they implied consumers could actually do pathogen testing at home in their kitchen. Instead they will say, “we never said that, we only said it could be used for surveillance. Surveillance only refers to counter-top swabs or chicken rinse samples, etc. The results will not be used by the consumer to actually say if what they are going to eat is safe but rather be used for public health benefit”, etc. and so on. Finally I do not see why sequencing would offer any benefit over standard real time PCR probe based fluorescence detection methods which have the added advantage of happening during the PCR not after it which is when sequencing would need to be done adding unneeded extra steps and time. The only advantage would seem to be portability of the instrumentation which currently is not an advantage because of the continuing need for PCR on a lab based PCR instrument pre sequencing. If, as you say, you are about to solve the at home, miniture, PCR instrument and sample prep problem just go ahead and add fluoresces probe detection to that and forget sequencing altogether.
And I did not even see the next paragraph yet. Sequencing, at a crime scene, wow that seems misguided and risky. There is a reason the samples are transported to a laboratory. It is not because the equipment needed to process and test them need to be in a laboratory, it is because the environmental control and chain of custody requirements of forensics testing are so stringent. You simply cannot get that level of control on the street or even in a mobile lab.
Don’t get me wrong I love the tech and I am sure it will find a niche audience and use but do not expect to see these in everyone’s kitchen and/or bathroom and/or at crime scenes anytime soon or ever. Hopefully the business model for this company is not based on a huge revenue stream coming from the home user or heaven forbid the food pathogen diagnostics market. A quick heads up if they are thinking about selling into food pathogen diagnostics, max test price for what they currently have is gonna be around 50 cents. No TTR or performance advantage currently so gotta go head to head with all the lateral flow, biochemical and other cut rate methods.
I like the educational aspect a lot, maybe focus on that. The alternative is to invest between 3–5 million over the next five years to fund an R&D program to once and for all come up with solutions for these same sample prep problems that have been plaguing food pathogen diagnostics since the invention of the first rapid test methods close to 30 years ago. Can you believe that? I am available to lead those R&D efforts if you would like. I can assure you that you wont find many (I would venture to say none) with my experience and knowledge in this area. I don’t come cheap but nothing good ever does. Might want to bump up those investment numbers to 4–6 million if you want to make an offer. My CV is available upon request or you can find a kind of dated but OK version on LinkedIn.
I gave a bunch of really good free advice and suggestions in this post. That is all you will get for free. Happy to talk more but not for free. Good luck!