"Just-Add-Water" Nucleic Acid Amplification
Apostolos Alissandratos of the Australian National University in Australia will develop a biotechnology platform for the low-cost production of simple, just-add-water diagnostic tests for the early detection of infectious diseases in resource-limited settings. Diagnosis of infectious diseases generally involves detecting pathogen-specific nucleic acids in human samples, which requires unstable reagents, costly procedures, and skilled workers. They have engineered a safe bacterium that produces the biochemical reagents needed to detect the pathogenic nucleic acids as an extract. They will develop a method to freeze-dry this extract so that it is stable at room temperature, simplifying production and storage, and a protocol for incorporating it into a reaction mixture that only requires the addition of water to an individual tube for a diagnostic polymerase chain reaction. They aim to reduce the cost per test by at least 100-fold, and will evaluate their approach for detecting a malaria-causing pathogen.