One of the latest and rarest laboratory equipment (Mercury lab) is here at Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute for Pharmacogenomics Training
According to Joseph Russell (PhD), senior scientist at MRIGlobal who is currently giving a training in Addis, the Mercury lab is designed and developed by the MRIGlobal and until now they have developed only two of such kind. One of them has come to Ethiopia for the training on Pharmacogenomics and small genomes organized by University of British Columbia (UBC), Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute (EBTi), CDT Africa, AHRI and Addis Ababa University (AAU). This laboratory equipment has not been marketed anywhere in the world.
EBTi Director General Dr. Kassahun Tesfaye, Deputy Director Generals and Core Research Directors visited and used the machine on spot and expressed their gratefulness for the developers and recognized the Mercury lab as one of most advanced laboratory facility- for disease surveillance in the remote areas which has no road, electricity and other infrastructures. It generates data scientifically equal with the WHO and OIE referral laboratories. Dr. Corey Nislow; Jemal Mohammed and Dr. Robert Sindelar all from University of British Columbia (UBC),who have been instrumental in organizing this joint training are excited to have this technology in Addis and appreciated the support from MRIGlobal.
It is well known fact that the ability to extract biological information from a given environment has undergone substantial change in just the past threeyears. Some of the latest hardware designed for quantitative PCR, antibody and protein detection, and genomic sequencing can easily fit in your coat pocket. The writing on the wall illustrates a future where advanced molecular diagnostics, biosurveillance, and forensic testing no longer requires transporting a sample back to a central reference laboratory. Samples can be processed on site, at the point-of-need, alleviating processing bottlenecks and dramatically reducing the time to acquire an actionable result.
However, this future has not yet been realized.
Despite the footprint of the molecular hardware becoming remarkably small, the operational footprint of the work is not equally small. Ancillary equipment, including power supply, cold-chain storage, computational capacity, a stable workbench, biohazard waste disposal strategies, and other logistics – all necessary for the effective use of the full complement of modern, hand-held genomics hardware – are capable of growing the operational footprint of these devices to sizes that are not reasonable to deploy at the point-of-need.
MRIGlobal has developed a product to address this problem. This product is a purpose-built platform that provides all the necessary operational equipment in a human-centered laboratory-workbench design such that rapid, reproducible deployment of advanced genomic technologies to field-forward locations is no longer strategically unfeasible.
From 2014 to 2016, MRIGlobal was staffing a series of mobile BSL-3+ molecular diagnostic laboratories in Guinea and Sierra Leone during the West African Ebola Virus epidemic.
Around this same time, several companies were emerging with the first hand-held molecular biology hardware that was 1) rugged enough, 2) simple enough, and 3) ‘affordable’ enough, such that a truly mobile, fully-outfitted molecular biosurveillance laboratory could be envisioned for routine deployment. A team of scientists within MRIGlobal’s Global Health Surveillance and Diagnostics Division started to whiteboard out what this may look like. The team wanted to link quantitative real-time PCR with genomic sequencing, so that known and unknown targets could be interrogated in the field, outside of a brick-and-mortar laboratory. Biomeme Inc.’s two-3™ qPCR machine and the MinION from Oxford Nanopore Technologies Inc. provided a starting point.The goal was simple – a ‘lab in a backpack’. The two-3™ is the size of a coffee mug and the MinION is the size of a candy bar. Surely a backpack was all we would need for those devices and their ancillary consumables.After several prototypes, equally illuminating field excursions, and the input of specialist mechanical, electrical, and industrial design engineers, MRIGlobalteam has developed the first truly mobile, single-person portable molecular biosurveillancelaboratory named as Mercury Lab.
Mercury Lab currently has the following features
• An integrated AC/DC inverter capable of connecting directly to a lead-acid 12V battery (or series of batteries) for long-standing power supply for sequencing & computational capacity
• Up to 72 hours of 4°C and -20°C cold storage for samples and reagents
• A removable shelving unit that contains a pipette rack with space for 4 pipettes and adjustable cubbies for pipette tip boxes, gloves, spare tubes, tube racks, ambient-temperature reagents, mini-centrifuge, and preferred hand-held molecular biology and/or chemical detection devices. The shelving unit detaches from the larger case into a zipper-secured backpack for deploying your hand-held diagnostic/detection devices even further afield.
• 32GB RAM / 2TB SSD, Bluetooth-enabled and LTE-connected computational workstation (Intel NUC Skull Canyon – NUC6i7kyk) with integrated screen and Bluetooth keyboard/mouse/trackpad. The NUC can be pre-configured with any preferred Linux or Windows operating system and suite of bioinformatics or other analytical software.
• A sturdy, yet collapsible, sterilizable, laboratory workbench with integrated windshield and foldable keyboard tray, providing nearly 6 square feet of workspace.
• Integrated solutions for biosafety and biohazard waste disposal.
As part of the two weeks training,MRIGlobal will conduct its Mercury Lab demo using DNA extracted during the training on Thursday, May02, 2019 at 2PM at Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute Core Laboratory.
o All Interested are invited to attend a short Demo of DNA sequencing technology using MinION from Oxford Nanopore Technologies Inc.