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Real-Time PCR for (Just About) Anyone

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PrimerDesign recently launched the world’s most affordable qPCR instrument, genesig q16, at the AACC meeting in Chicago. With the tagline DNA testing for Everything, Everyone and Everywhere PrimerDesign are clearly thinking big.  

To learn more about the genesig q16 and the variety of applications it can be used for, we spoke to Jim Wicks, PhD., Managing Director at PrimerDesign Ltd,

AM: Can you tell me a little about PrimerDesign?

Jim Wicks (JW): We founded PrimerDesign in 2004 and launched in 2005.  The idea was to make use of our expertise in the field of qPCR and to make that expertise available to customers in product form.   We began by building the World’s best custom designed qPCR primer service and using that as a way to help academic researchers.  That’s still at the core of the business and we develop thousands of primer sets for academics all over the World.  But the business has grown way beyond that.  In particular there is a huge demand for applied tests to help answer important questions: Is there horse meat in my burger?  Is there listeria in my water supply? Etc. So our applied testing kit business has grown dramatically.  We now have 90 distributors covering over 100 countries around the globe.

AM: Your latest product, genesig q16 was launched at AACC in Chicago. Were you always looking to launch a qPCR machine?

JW: We are primarily a kit company but it’s natural for us to launch a machine.  Our customers trust us and see us a complete solution for their qPCR needs so for a long while we have harboured ambitions to have our own machine to complete that solution for our customers.  However, we did not want to launch another complex £20k machine for researchers.  There are plenty of those out there already.  We wanted to do something truly different and make the technology available to a whole range of new users.  

AM: Can you tell me more about genesig q16, specifically what sets it apart from other DNA testing instruments on the market?

JW: It’s revolutionary.  The instrument has an extraordinary price tag for a start: £3995, which is around one third of that of our nearest competitor.  But it’s a beautifully built high quality instrument.  Visually it’s stunning but the specifications of the instrument are first class too.  There are no moving parts (which is another industry first) so we are forecasting very very good reliability as it tends to be the moving parts that break on competitor instruments.  It uses a peltier system for thermal control which people will be familiar with.  But the way that fluorescent data is collected is special too.  Each reaction is individually excited and monitored (whereas block based systems gather info from all 96 wells at once) then calibrated to perfection.  This means that the quality of data in terms of well-to-well variability is extraordinary.  It will outperform any block based instrument in that respect.

The other key aspect is the software.  It’s an incredibly easy to use interface.  Literally anyone can be taught to use it.  All of the data analysis is automated.  So even a novice, non-scientist can get an answer, in English, to the question he or she is asking.

AM: The genesig q16 instrument was developed in partnership with IT-IS Life Sciences. Can you tell me about this collaboration?

JW: IT-IS are a high quality British instrument manufacturer.  They develop and manufacture instruments for some of the biggest players in the market so we’re delighted to be partnering with a highly professional outfit like IT-IS.  Their expertise in instrumentation and our expertise in applied testing kit development is a potent combination. 

AM: The range of over 400 different genesig easy kits enables DNA testing in a number of areas. Which applications is genesig q16 most suited to?

JW: We are very proud of our range of applied tests.  They cover an enormous range of applications.  The q16 is not limited to any particular market or application because it’s so simple and well thought through that anyone can make use of it.  That’s why it’s such an exciting opportunity.  In broad terms there are applications in four main areas:

  1. Infectious disease screening – e.g. MRSA on hospital wards, Norovirus on a cruise ship

  2. Food and water testing – e.g. horse meat contamination, legionella in water supply

  3. Veterinary diagnostics – e.g. TB in cattle, FIV in cats

  4. Biothreat detection – e.g. Anthrax detection in a post room, bioweapons detection on a battlefield.

Jim Wicks was speaking to Anna-Marie MacDonald, Editor for Technology Networks.