The LavaAmp is a portable PCR thermocycler that has the potential to become the default garage biology (home biology, bioDIY, DIYbio) tool once it hits the market. Think of Apple II for personal computing or MakerBot for 3D printing.
The 1st LavaAmp prototype was shipped this week from Biodesic to Gahaga Biosciences and the process is documented and engineering details uncovered in Rob Carlson’s post.
The people behind are mainly ex SciFoo Campers and open science advocates: Guido Nunez-Mujica, Joseph Jackson, Rob Carlson, Jim Hardy and a cool engineer Rik Wehbring.
Here’s the pic of the prototype:
In the 2007 proof-of-concept paper, entitled A Pocket-Sized Convective PCR Thermocycler, authors Nitin Agrawal, Yassin A. Hassan, and Victor M. Ugaz wrote:
Herein, we introduce an innovative thermocycling system that
harnesses natural convection phenomena to amplify DNA rapidly by the PCR in a greatly simplified format. A key element of this design is an architecture that allows the entire thermocycling process to be actuated pseudo-isothermally by simply maintaining a single heater at a constant temperature, thereby enabling a pocket-sized battery-powered device to be constructed at a cost of about US$10.
Realizing the potential of the device and thinking about how to build a digital thermocontroller for it with the Arduino I contacted Victor Ugaz this January and was informed that they only built the proof-of-the-concept devices testing them in the lab interested mainly in ‘understanding the physics of the thermally driven flow and its effect on the reaction’. But it was obvious to me that somebody will produce those devices for the market and make them affordable to people as it seemed to me as the familiar case of the low(est)-hanging-fruit.
So when Joseph Jackson mentioned to me his grandiose open science plans and the groups’ ‘super affordable pcr’ project I became instantly interested. As Rob Carlson writes:
The intended initial customers are hobbyists and schools. The price point for new LavaAmps should be well underneath the several thousand dollars charged for educational thermocyclers that use heater blocks powered by peltier chips.