By Simon Wiegrebe
Our (ad)venture started in October 2016, when seven University of Cambridge students were assigned to the same Development iTeams project, with the objective of identifying high-impact applications for cell-free diagnostics in low income countries. We spent a very intense 6-weeks brainstorming, contacting experts around the world, and discussing with our mentors: Jenny Molloy from the Synthetic Biology SRI; Fernán Federici from PUC (Chile); Richard Hammond from Cambridge Consultants, and Lara Allen from the Centre for Global Equality. After extensive research on applications ranging human diseases to disaster relief, we identified animal diseases, crop diseases, and environmental heavy metal contamination as promising directions. Towards the end of November 2016, when the iTeams project was drawing to an end, it became increasingly apparent that surveillance of livestock diseases would be a particularly valuable area of application for the technology.
During the winter break, five of the seven iTeam members - Chun Man, Emily, Laura, Raghd and Simon - decided to carry on with the project, and so in January 2017 OpenDiagnostics was born. Since then, a lot has happened - field trips, raising funds, and the start of prototyping - which we will write about soon.
For any interested students at the University of Cambridge, we would highly recommend participating in the Development iTeams programme.