Startup Mobile Assay receives Gates grant
Mobile Assay is a new startup that was spun out of the University of Colorado-Boulder. Its co-founder and chief science officer, Don Cooper, developed the technology in his laboratory at CU's Institute for Behavioral Genetics. The research project is titled "A Lab on Mobile Device Platform for Seed Testing."
Cooper, an associate professor in the psychology and neurosciences department, and his team developed technology that includes using mobile devices, test strips (similar to pregnancy test strips), geographical tagging and cloud computing, to detect, quantify and track common seed-borne pathogens in real time to address the economic impact of seed-borne diseases in developing countries.
"This will ultimately allow farmers in developing countries to identify and track pathogens infecting seeds and share their data, which could improve crop yields and prevent crop losses," he said.
Cooper said the team initially will target the fungus Botrytis, which can devastate crops such as yams, potatoes, wheat, soybeans, onions and sorghum around the world, as well as aflotoxins, which can contaminate seeds during storage and are among the most carcinogenic substances known.
A crucial part of the project developed by Cooper and his team is mobile image ratiometry, a software algorithm that analyzes images and can precisely quantify the level of infection of crop pathogens, which are then mapped and shared via cloud computing that uses both software and hardware over the Internet.
The technology will allow for the creation of electronic "push-pin" maps where data will be made available on an openly shared website, enabling anyone to upload results and track outbreaks and infestations of seed-borne pathogens, ultimately helping people better regulate the informal exchanges of seeds, he said.
Mobile Assay was one of more than 80 recipients to receive a Grand Challenges Exploration Round 9 grant from the foundation.
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