Aurélien Bancaud, researcher at CNRS.
PHOTO, ERIC CABANIS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Sequencing DNA in ten minutes instead of the usual three to four hours: the French Aurélien Bancaud, researcher at CNRS, has been awarded for a discovery potential “considerable”, from criminology to screening tests Cancer.
"It was a bit of luck" as often in the world of innovations that Aurelian Bancaud was coincidental. The researcher of the Laboratory of Analysis and Architecture of Systems French National Centre for Scientific Research (LAAS-CNRS) in 2012 tried to slow the flow of product in DNA, in order to read sequencing, using a electric field. "It was then seen that this electric field separates DNA without matrix need," says the researcher, who has just received for this discovery the first instrumentation price of the French Chemical Society. To sequence DNA, and thus obtain the genetic identity card of a species, the method has not changed since the 70 is to deposit DNA on a matrix, that is to say a mold for reproducing a footprint, consisting of a kind of gel. Then passing an electrical charge through the gel and the DNA pieces move as a function of their size. The image thus obtained form a "bar code".
But the poor sensitivity of this method requires a large sample of DNA, which can be difficult to obtain, particularly in forensics. The method developed by Aurélien Bancaud, named "MicroLAS" does not use gel matrix: passing directly the electric field in the DNA deposited either on the gel, but on a small chip, similar to a computer chip, which are bonded fluidic circuits on silicon.
These "labs on chip" as called Mr. Bancaud are "100 to 1000 times more sensitive" than the gel matrix. Therefore, it is generally no longer necessary, as with the traditional method, to concentrate the sample DNA prior to sequencing in order to facilitate reading. Eliminating this step saves about an hour and a half. The gel preparation is also no more needed, obviating another stage about an hour and a half. "Thus it three / four hours to only 10 minutes," says Toulouse researcher in his cluttered laboratory impressive fluorescence microscopes, only able to read DNA. "So we've been pretty successful," he adds modestly.
The discovery has been an accompaniment by Toulouse Tech Transfer (TTT), the Technology Transfer Acceleration Company (SATT) of Midi-Pyrénées, supported by the French National Research Agency. A license agreement was signed with the company Toulouse Picometrics Technologies, specializing in high sensitivity of fluorescence detection, which has already established a track record of product development. "The potential of this innovative technology is considerable," says Laas. For reducing the time required for analysis, reduces the cost, even if it is not yet quantifiable. The "MicroLAS" developed in Toulouse could well help speed the identification in criminology, but also timely at a time when DNA testing market is booming.
Without going that far, the "MicroLAS" can be a boon for cancer genetic tests, which are performed from a blood test, where the DNA is in small quantities. "This is where it's useful to have a simple tool," says the researcher of 39 years.