Universities and research institutions across Europe are major drivers of future technologies. Many of the inventions that are making an impact in society today have had their start in academic and non-profit research laboratories.
Revolutionising DNA testing with quick and easy "lab on a USB stick"
This innovation puts prevention at the centre of healthcare. Knowing about health risks and taking early actions is better than any drug.
Medical technology researcher and co-founder of DNA Electronics
DNA can now be analysed within minutes, thanks to the work of Christofer Toumazou, and it does not even require a lab. Despite leaving school at 16 with no "O"-levels, he went on to study electronic engineering and aged 33 was the youngest professor ever at Imperial College London. Turning his attention to personalised medical diagnostics he has invented a microchip-based DNA test that detects genetic disorders. The DNA is modelled on the human body’s ability to detect conditions and launch automatic responses. As the analytics chip is mounted on a USB stick, the results can be viewed on a computer within minutes. The potential is significant for use in places with scarce medical resources, as well as in improving quality of life of patients due to early detection. Driven in his work to improve medical technology because of his son’s genetic disease, Toumazou’s work heralds an era of increased use of genetic testing where patients can receive customised treatments. The inventor also seeks to de-stigmatise medical technology by licensing the DNA test for use in cosmetics, enabling skincare products to be individually tailored.
View the Make, Create, Innovate film about Christofer Toumazou's innovation.
Silencing the genes that cause disease with RNA interference
This procedure is a milestone in the development of ground-breaking treatment methods for serious diseases, and a new generation of drugs.
Biochemist, medical researcher and co-founder of Alnylam, the RNAi genetics specialist
The ability to turn off genes that cause illnesses is no longer a dream. The work of Thomas Tuschl has become the foundation for numerous promising therapies against cardiovascular diseases, HIV and cancer, as well as genetic illnesses such as hemophilia. The mechanism that silences genes - the so-called RNA interference (RNAi) - earned the Nobel Prize when it was first discovered by two American scientists in 1998. Tuschl, a German researcher based in the US, reached his breakthrough when he adapted this technique for use in human cells, as the initial research was conducted on worms. Tuschl found that by introducing RNA outside a cell in the right size and shape, the protein-coding process of the targeted gene is interrupted and the gene remains intact yet inert. Clinical trials are currently underway for a number of products based on Tuschl’s method, with the hope that millions of patients can be helped.
Philippe Cinquin, Serge Cosnier & Team
Medical devices perpetually powered by the glucose in blood
What the French group of scientists has developed offers millions of implant users the ground-breaking possibility to avoid follow-up surgery
Researchers at Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble. Professor of Medical Informatics (Cinquin); Head of Department of Molecular Chemistry (Cosnier)
A living battery that runs off the glucose in the blood would mean the end to invasive and costly surgeries every eight years, currently the prospect of people living with pacemakers. A new fuel cell, developed by Philippe Cinquin and Serge Cosnier and their team, could put an end to this, by using the glucose naturally available in the body to power medical devices. This success is a resurgence of an idea going back to the 1960s, but it took the collaboration of the two French scientists working in two different areas to bring it to fruition. Working in medical informatics and molecular chemistry respectively, Cinquin and Cosnier combined their findings to develop the implantable fuel cell. The cell has already been successfully proven in animal models to reach a power level sufficient to run a pacemaker. In the future, the same technology may be used to power electronics, running solely off sugar and oxygen.