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Open for everyone
- 19:30 CRI

PhD Thesis Defense - Guy Aidelberg

PhD Thesis Defense -  Guy Aidelberg

Towards Democratization of Nucleic Acid Detection

The defense will be online, using this link:

The aim of this project was to understand how to democratize nucleic acid detection and how to harness it for citizen science and education. Allowing anybody anywhere to do and understand genetic detection, simply rapidly and affordably and to demystify, empower, educate, and inspire.

This interdisciplinary work both used and developed novel tools at the intersection of Molecular Biology, Citizen/Open, and Learning Sciences. We tested new high throughput, low volume, and multi-parameter techniques to develop and optimize fluorescent isothermal nucleic acid amplification assays that are not only rapid, sensitive, and specific but also robust. We created a 5 minutes DNA extraction protocol that only needs water. Detection is done utilizing our ultra- affordable (less than 2$) easy to build open-hardware fluorescence detector.

Making finding a specific fragment of DNA/RNA more accessible by reducing the cost of the reactions and instrumentation by at least an order of magnitude and halving the length of the experiments as compared to traditional PCR. Additionally simplifying it, such that even the untrained public (from the ages of 5 to 85) can successfully detect and see a gene with their own eyes. The hour of incubation time allows for deeper discussion, learning, and debate. The first use case is detection of GMOs in food and feed.

This has all been packaged into a modular open Workshop/Lab that has been adapted to different audiences. The workshop has been done over 25 times in 5 countries (France, UK, Switzerland, USA, Spain), by more than 400 people, half of which were K-14 students in the Paris region, and the other half on diverse groups such as researchers, biohackers/makers, and the general public. Pre/post-workshop questionnaires have shown significantly improved understanding, empowerment and motivation by the participants.

As Proof of the generality of this approach during the COVID pandemic these methodologies and the lessons learned have been applied to the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in an open and collaborative way with partners around the globe. Particularly focusing on solutions for low resource settings, which might lack access to infrastructure and robust cold chains.

We believe this is an important step towards making nucleic acids accessible to a wider audience, in an open, hands-on, learning by doing way. This powerful methodology could be used for a variety of other targets such as interrogating the food we eat or searching for endangered, invasive, or pathogenic species.

The Jury:


Prof Jim Hasselhof Professor of Synthetic Biology - Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge also the founder of Openplant and Biomaker Dr. David Sun Kong Director, Community Biotechnology Initiative Research Scientist MIT MediaLAB


Prof Murial MAMBRINI- DOUDET Head of the FIRE doctoral school CRI/UDP/INRA Dr. Amir MITCHEL ASSISTANT PROFESSOR University of Massachusetts Dr. Fernan FEDERICI ASSISTANT PROFESSOR Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile