The Development of iGenomics, the World’s First DNA Sequencer on iPhone

One of the scientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CHSL), Aspyn Palatnick, has successfully developed a tool to analyze the series of cellular genomes. The tool is claimed to be the first in the world and it is currently available on Apple’s app store with the name iGenomics. To operate it, the users only need to install the iPhone with a DNA sequencer cellular device. As a result, you can create your own cellular genetics lab. Yes, it may remind you of the “Tricorder” that appears in Star Trek movies.

iOS devices are chosen for the main media to install and use the app. The main reasons are practicality and mobility. Sure, it is possible to use it on bigger devices like a PC or laptop. However, it sounds less easy. Moreover, the app is intended for those who are in the work fields during pandemics. 

Purposes of the App

The app is developed to complete the device of small DNA sequencing produced by Oxford Nanopore. Palatnick said that because of the sequences that are getting smaller and smaller, there is no technology available to learn about DNA on cellular devices. Currently, there are only some major studies about the DNA. They are the DNA arrangement and analysis that are done in a big server cluster. Those activities also can only be done on a laptop with more complex programs.

Meanwhile, there is still no similar app that can be operated via smaller mobile devices like the iPhone. This is what makes Palatnick become really enthusiastic to create one. Additionally, the users of Smartphones have increased very rapidly in these recent years. The development of the app is expected to ease the users more in learning about and analyzing DNA sequencing.

The same reason is also stated by Schatz. There are many scientists who learn about pandemics and they must fly from one place to another surrounded by high risks for the sake of doing analysis in the remote area. iGenomics is expected to help them by making the genome study more portable, accessible, and affordable.

Functions and Benefits of iGenomics

The users can manage the AirDrop data from one to another. It enables DNA analysis even in a very remote location. You can also do it in an area without any internet access. So, it is not exaggerating if iGenomics later can also be used by astronauts in outer space.

Interestingly, there are indeed so many interests in DNA sequencing in space. Palatnick said that he tries to see whether there is a way so that they can get iGenomics there. So many people have been interested in doing this. it is proof of the impossibility to do the same analysis on a conventional computer. Yes, it is impossible to bring your computer or laptop to outer space or other remote areas on the earth. Your smartphone is more possible to be carried anywhere.

Furthermore, in the Gigascience journal, Palatnick and Schatz report that the algorithm of iGenomics can map DNA sequences faster than some virus pathogens including influenza and Zika viruses. The app can also more easily identify important mutations for diagnosis and treatments. To ease the users in using the app, online guides are available currently.

Although the app has not been used widely yet, Schatz dreams about iGenomics to help workers in fields as well as engineers more in the future. In one of his statements, he said that currently, almost all people have professional cameras in their pockets. it should not be too difficult to imagine that some years later, we can bring our own DNA sequencer in our same pockets also, in our smartphones. There will be more opportunities to measure our environments to look for and find pathogens and even do our own diagnoses.

Who is Palatnick?

iGenomics was programmed by Aspyn Palatnick. It is not a short period of time to see the product is perfectly done. Yes, he needs 8 years to complete it and Palatnick started the development in high school when he was still 14 years old.

Palatnick is indeed interested in the world of software aside from his ability in the area of DNA and genome. His ability has improved well as currently, he is no longer a student but a professional software engineer who works on Facebook. It makes him more experienced in developing apps for the iPhone. With support from Prof. Schatz and his laboratory, it seems reasonable if he can develop something incredible like iGenomics.