A Cypriot scientist, Professor Christofer Toumazou, is among the finalists of this year’s European Inventor Award for his tiny fast DNA testing tool on a USB stick.
The awards ceremony, hosted by the European Patent Office (EPO), will take place in Berlin on June 17 where winners will be announced in the following categories: Industry, Non-European Countries, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), Research, Popular Prize and Lifetime Achievement.
Toumazou is competing in the category of biotechnology research together with Thomas Tuschl (Germany) for gene-silencing technique to treat diseases, and Philippe Cinquin, Serge Cosnier, Chantal Gondran, Fabien Giroud (France) for implantable biofuel cell that runs on glucose.
According to the organisers of the awards, unravelling the complexities of the human genome was once an endeavour reserved for the scientific elite, but Christofer Toumazou’s invention – a USB stick that decodes a patient’s DNA within minutes – puts that unique ability at people’s fingertips.
His invention employs small silicon microchips that can identify genetic mutations that determine a person’s predispositions to certain hereditary diseases. These portable, low-power devices can analyse data on the spot rather than in a lab environment. As such, they represent a great stride in medicine as emphasis shifts from treating illnesses to preventing and diagnosing them in a targeted manner.
The market potential for DNA sequencing is immense. By 2016, it is expected to be worth US $6.6 bln and grow by 17.5% annually.
Prof. Toumazou’s parents lived in Yialousa until the late 1950s and moved to the UK shortly before he was born. He and his family have maintained strong links with the island, and he has been a mentor to Cypriot science students in the past.
By the time he was 33 he was Imperial College London’s youngest professor. He is an electrical engineer who has turned to medical technology and invented a “DNA lab on a USB stick”.
Following the announcement of this year’s finalists for the European Inventor Award 2014 a competition to the public was opened to vote for the favourite individual or team to win the Popular Prize under http://www.epo.org/learning-events/european-inventor/popular-prize.html
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