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UK scientist Professor Christofer Toumazou shortlisted for European Inventor Award

Toumazou developed game-changing rapid, on-the-spot, disposable "DIY" DNA test Microchip instead of genetics lab: analysis via USB stick saves time and money
    LONDON, ENGLAND, May 01, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- 52-year-old UK top medical engineer Christofer Toumazou is considered to be a pioneer in the field of personalised medical diagnostics. Thanks to his ground-breaking work, DNA can now be analysed within minutes and outside a lab environment. Thus, medicine is taking a big step from healing illnesses to preventing them. Acknowledging this achievement, the European Patent Office (EPO) has nominated him as a finalist for the European Inventor Award 2014 in the category "Research". Europe's "Oscar" for technological innovation will be awarded in Berlin on 17 June.

Having studied electrical engineering, Toumazou started his career developing energy-efficient microchips for mobile phones. He turned out to be so successful that, aged 33, he became the youngest professor ever at Imperial College London where he exclusively concentrated on combining electrical engineering and microchip technology with biomedicine.

The UK scientist who is of Cypriot descent modelled his technology on the human body's own "local intelligence" principle for monitoring and supplying cells and organs whereby local detection of conditions precisely govern the body's own automatic therapeutic response. Therefore, Toumazou uses special silicon microchips that are able to immediately and locally analyse data to provide new, fast and easy applications in the field of intelligent medical diagnostics.

"The ground-breaking results of Christofer Toumazou's work underline the importance of interdisciplinary research, especially in medical diagnostics. With his invention, diagnosis becomes much faster and more cost-efficient. This paves the way for a medical science that puts the focus on prevention. Knowing about health risks and taking early action is better than any drug," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli upon announcing that Toumazou is a finalist for the European Inventor Award 2014.

Toumazou's interest in genetic diseases was mainly brought about because of his son Marcus, who suffers from a rare genetic kidney disease. "I felt the desperate need to apply this technology to early detection," he said. "If we could detect something early enough it becomes preventative medicine and people like my son Marcus could have gone about their lifestyle in a very different way."

His revolutionary innovation of a rapid DNA test via a USB stick puts this concept within reach. The invention is based on a microchip that detects genetic disorders in human DNA within a few minutes. It is therefore possible to establish, for example, a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's and other inherited diseases but also if a patient is able to metabolise certain drugs. What makes the invention even more special is the fact that the chip can be mounted on a USB stick which loads the results within 20 minutes on a computer. Such a "do-it-yourself" DNA test could in the foreseeable future be offered by pharmacies as a kind of a "pocket lab".

Professor Toumazou says: "The key advantage of this technology is the fact that it uses a microchip. And as we all know we find microchips in computers, and computers are very fast, so my microchip is very fast. Existing technologies use what we call optics. They use light. And optics don't scale in this miniature fast way in the same way an electronic microchip does. Therefore, I would like to develop individual chips for each gene mutation."

Microchip technology being used worldwide
In 2010, the scientist licensed the cost-efficient chip technology to the start-up Ion Torrent System Inc which immediately developed technology in full genome sequencing machines now being sold worldwide. Toumazou's company DNA Electronics is more focused on Point of Care solutions for time-critical medical applications. Countries with scarce medical resources can profit from this technology, for example, it enables poorly equipped hospitals in sub-Saharan African countries to carry out diagnostic tests without needing a lab. Research institutions and university hospitals are also using the technology; in Münster, Germany, scientists were able to sequence the DNA of the dangerous E. coli bacteria within 62 hours.

Other inventions of the UK scientist also revolve around this specific type of microchip. Toumazou developed an intelligent insulin infusion pump that delivers the right amount of insulin into the diabetes patient's bloodstream thanks to the data of a glucose biosensor that is inserted on the base of the abdomen.

Furthermore, Toumazou has devised a digital plaster containing a microchip that can be attached to a patient's chest in order to monitor all vital parameters including heart rate and blood pressure. Doctors can monitor the data in the hospital or remotely via a mobile device. Using Toumazou's words, the plaster enables patients to take the hospital home with them. Some hospitals in the USA already deploy this wireless monitoring method.

Toumazou has further licensed the technology to cosmetic company GENEU, enabling customers to personalise skincare products matched to their own DNA. Starting with cosmetic uses he hopes to take the stigma away from medical technology as a first step to meeting the requirements of future direct-to-consumer chronic disease management.

Toumazou holds over 50 patents. He filed a patent application for his rapid DNA analysis method as early as 2001, and another three basic patents of his have turned his invention into a veritable innovation platform. The patents are held by DNA Electronics, which was founded by Toumazou in 2003. The company is continuously developing the technology further and has entered into a number of partnerships. DNA sequencing and PCR has a huge market potential: according to a report by Transparency Market Research from 2012, it will grow up to EUR 4,8 billion until 2016 with a yearly growth rate of an estimated 17,5 per cent.

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Maria Diviney
Shepard Fox Communications

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