Opensource $300 Real Time PCR "qNinja" and $50 LAMP machine "qNinja Lite"
By Shingo Hisakawa
What inspired you or what is the idea that got you started?
Just after the pandemic of COVID-19 happened in 2020, we launched our $300 qNinja (supporting qPCR+qLAMP) project for infectious disease testing. 2 years later, it's almost complete, including sensitive optical circuits. Then Russian invasion of Ukraine began. We launched a $50 qNinjaLite (supporting qLAMP) project to make a more affordable device for water testing and using the same optical circuits of qNinja.
What is your project about and how does it work?
PCR is a traditional way to visualize specific genes like COVID-19 and legionella by making tons of copies while precise temperature transitions. qPCR and qLAMP are extended ways of PCR by making these copies fluorescent. First, through blue optical filters, qNinja emits bright blue light from LEDs to microtubes containing copied target genes. Then target genes absorb blue light and emit faint green light. Circuits amplify and measure the green light by optical sensors behind the green light filters.
What did you learn by doing this project?
How to sense weak signal in noise with a technique named "Demodulation". How to survive the chip crisis. Most importantly, teamworking. So many people over the world helped this project in academic, money, and manufacturing ways. Optics expert in Kathmandu advised me about the proper positions of LEDs and optical sensors to avoid heat effect. A guy in the US bought our open source $500 PCR machine "NinjaPCR" and reject to receive it to donate to this project. A Chinese company in Guangdong has been helping us for years to make custom heaters and optical filters. Rising 2 small kids while developing qNinja and qNinjaLite is hard for I and my wife Mariko but we helped each other and finally, we're making the first proof of concept of qNinja and qNinjaLite in July 2022 and proceed to 3rd party evaluation. Pretesting result shows our qNinja and qNinjaLite has ability to detect only one target gene per tube. so all of us are excited.
What impact does your project have on others as well as yourself?
Gene testing is not only a tool for infectious disease detection. Children with food allergies can test their foods by themselves. Farmers, fishermen, and livestock raisers can test their products and environments. Another team successfully made open-source Freeze-drying (lyophilization) reagents in labs and we are already connected. Everyone over the world can solve gene-related problems by making tools, and designing biosensors by themselves in the open-source circle.