There have been some ideas floating around on a new possible avenue of research for the Open Insulin project. Anthony and me got in touch with Federico from digi.bio, who are developing an open source microfluidic device. I only got to writing a summary of the conversation now.
It boils down to this. There is someone in CCL planning to generate a bunch of genetic sequences that could be potentially interesting as linkers for bringing the insulin A and B chain together more effectively. Hopefully this would result in many viable options, that have to be tested in lab experiments.
Testing many options would be very resource intensive, and this is where the microfluidics chips come in. A small demo at one of the Digi.bio events can be found here (cool video!). If optimized, the chips would allow for much cheaper and automated testing of the generated sequences.
The optimization part is something that we could work on here in Belgium. Federico is based in China/Amsterdam, so he is around close enough to help us get started and betatest his chip. This would give a new dimension to replicating the work previously done by CCL, if we could test culturing the bacteria on the chips. If it works, it would even be pretty valuable step towards opening up biotech research in general.
I dug up some specs of the device (approximates) that Federico shared:
- Up to 20 liquids in- and output
- Run program to get a droplet from the liquid: 300nl-2µl depending on size of device
- Temperature goes from 4°C to 95°C, so you could run a PCR and anything in between (eg. cell incubation at 37°C)
- Magnet to do purification (unsure about this)
- They're planning to add fluorescence detection (months in the future)
- It should be possible to do everything on the chip: transformation, cloning, selection, screening, ... Also planning to add electroporation.