Virochip – semiconductors and genetics combined

Excerpts from a rather old innovation (2004):  ViroChip Inventor Wins MacArthur Fellowship

“Joe DeRisi likes a challenge, particularly one that involves an unknown strain of virus. This University of California San Francisco scientist has built a microchip that can be used to detect viruses. He calls it the ViroChip.

DeRisi has put the DNA sequences of all known viruses on a microchip—22,000 sequences to be exact. DeRisi has a person cough in a cup and uses the chip to screen the phlegm for DNA. Because each virus has a genetic signature, DeRisi can pinpoint which virus the patient has.

The ViroChip made its bona fide debut when scientists were trying to figure out what was causing the SARS outbreak in 2003. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control shipped a sample to DeRisi’s lab and within 24 hours they had used the ViroChip to characterize the virus as a novel coronavirus.

After a virus has been isolated on the chip, DeRisi can physically scrape the virus off the chip and sequence its DNA to get a more specific look at which virus is there.”

Since genetic sequences are basically equivalent to computer code, once the sequence from the virus is determined, comparing it to the database on the chip is a straightforward process.  This tool should be widely available at low cost at some point due to the economies of scale of semiconductor manufacturing.  The result would be reduced healthcare costs as proper diagnosis and treatment is quicker.

The researchers’ site provides a link to an Excel Spreadsheet of All Viral Oligonucleotide Sequences .  Amazing.

A more recent application:

UCSF Researchers Use ViroChip to ID Virus that Devastated Monkey Colony, Infected Humans

July 19, 2011
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