Singularity University Startup Miroculus developing blood test to diagnose most diseases at molecular level

Imagine a simple blood test that can tell you, at the molecular level, the exact type of disease you have and its severity before presenting any symptoms. Miroculus brings an accurate, easy to use, non-invasive, decentralized, operator independent and affordable microRNA detection platform for molecular data gathering, analysis and interpretation.

Miroculus is building a near future where diseases are treated better, because they are constantly diagnosed and monitored at the molecular level.

1. Extract the total RNA from the patient’s blood sample and pipette it in a standard 96 well plate

Each well of this plate has our patented biochemistry that is looking for a specific microRNA. This biochemistry acts like a trap that closes only when the microRNA is present in the sample. Whenever a trap closes it will shine with green color.

2. Prepare and load the 96 well plate in our device

The reaction runs for approximately 60 minutes. Your smartphone processes the results, matches the wells that shine with specific microRNAs, and analyzes how much and how fast they shine. This tells us which microRNAs are present in the sample and whether they are over-regulated or down-regulated.

3. Login to visualize your patient’s results.

They optimize our methods regularly to provide real time data interpretation with high accuracy. Our data analysis platform lets you visualize trends and correlations over time, stratify patients, view results in real time and add other contextual information. If we want to better understand and decode diseases we must stop treating them as acute isolated episodes and consider and measure everything that affects our health on a permanent basis.

Miriam capitalizes on much of the research and science that already exists around microRNA and cancer. You can prepare the blood sample, for instance, using a standard off-the-shelf RNA extraction kit, as well as a Miroculus “master mix” (another means of preparing the raw sample for the test). Then, once the sample is prepared, you pipette the blood into a 96-well plate, which Christodoulou refers to as the company’s “secret sauce.”

That’s because each well has been pre-treated with Miroculus’s patented biochemistry to act as a sort of trap for various types of microRNA, most commonly associated with cancer. When Miroculus goes to market, it will be these plates—and not the $500 devices themselves—that will generate the most revenue.

After the wells are full, the plate goes into the device, and the reaction begins. When microRNA is present, the wells start to glow. The stronger the glow, the stronger the presence of microRNA. In an hour, the reaction is complete, and the results get sent to a cloud server. There, the system reads the luminosity of the various wells, determines which microRNA is present in the sample, and compares that result to a database of information on which microRNA patterns are associated with which cancers. Then the system is able to make a judgment.

While at Singularity, the team completed a proof of principle experiment, in which they successfully detected liver cancer in mice.

The challenge with microRNA, he says, is that it doesn’t only show up in the case of cancer. Something as simple as taking aspirin or having a respiratory infection could affect which microRNA gets expressed in blood. To guarantee accuracy, Miroculus’s technology must know not only which results mean cancer, but also how other health conditions, medications, and environmental factors can alter or inhibit those results.

“There are so many stories of biomarkers that get discovered, and then there are things you didn’t know that basically kill the marker,” Tewari says. “Bringing the device to the point where, in fact, it is robust and reliable when you put it in the hands of a large number of people who are truly untrained, that’s always the next barrier to be overcome.”

Miroculus is launching the product not with the doctors and clinics—it would require FDA approval for that, anyway—but with pharmaceutical companies, who will use the tool to track how patients react to new drugs. As these companies track results, Miroculus will, in turn, be able to collect mountains of microRNA related data. Once that trove of information is robust enough, and that could take a number of years, then and only then will Miroculus begin to seek FDA approval to market Miriam as a diagnostic tool. Until then, Miroculus will continue tweaking the device and running its own studies out of the European Molecular Biology Lab in Heidelberg, Germany.

There was a TED Global presentation on Thursday, October 9, 2014

SOURCES – Miroculus, wired, TED Global, Youtube

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