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Genetic Testing Made Easy—Well, Easier

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 12/17/2010 More stories >>

Diagenetix triumphed over fourteen other student teams at UH that advanced to the competition semi-finals and four teams that made it to the finals. Pictured above are PACE Executive Director Susan Yamada, Scott Shibata and Ryo Kubota.

Diagenetix triumphed over fourteen other student teams at UH that advanced to the competition semi-finals and four teams that made it to the finals. Pictured above are PACE Executive Director Susan Yamada, Scott Shibata and Ryo Kubota.

To most of us, genetic testing still sounds fairly high tech—something best left to highly trained scientists. But Ryo Kubota (PhD student, MBBE) is working to bring it closer in reach. Ryo is the lead member of the company Diagenetix, which won first place in UH-Manoa’s 2010 Business Plan competition. Diagenetix has developed “reagent mixes that enable rapid isothermal DNA detection of microbial pathogens on a disposable platform with a simple portable instrument.” In other words, with a machine that fits into the palm of the hand and a special chemical mix, it is possible to diagnose numerous infectious diseases caused by viruses and bacteria, including the H1N1 virus, by looking at the genetic structure of the pathogens. Ryo points out that the other available testing kits on the market are larger and far more expensive than the one the team has developed, which will sell for $1,200 and can allow companies that haven’t been able to do DNA testing to start doing so. The testing can also take place more rapidly, he explains, because it can be done at a constant temperature instead of having to cycle through three specific temperatures to get the results as the other instruments do.

The Diagenetix product line of chemical reagents—several are available, depending on what pathogen is being tested for—is based on technologies developed and provisionally patented by Ryo with his research mentor Daniel Jenkins (MBBE). Other members of the Diagenetix team include Scott Shibata (MS graduate, MBBE), who is now the project manager at Hawaii Bioenergy LLC, and Jimmy Saw, who is a PhD candidate in the Microbiology program. Diagenetix triumphed over the fourteen other student teams at UH that advanced to the competition semi-finals and the four teams that made it to the finals. The company received prizes totaling $10,000 in cash and more than $17,500 in legal, marketing, and other services to develop and promote the business. Diagenetix is also the recipient of a fellowship through the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE), which supports a team of business and legal students to further develop marketing plans. The team is seeking investor support, funding through Small Business Innovation Research grants, and partnerships with non-profit agencies and other businesses.