Who would’ve thought that an episode of sci-fi series Star Trek would unlock the secrets of biotechnology in the medical world? Dr Tan for one did.
“In Star Trek, there is a clinic on board the Starship Enterprise with a scanner that detects all kinds of diseases in humans and it can tell you why you’re sick,” she explains.
“I thought if they could have one on the show, why couldn’t we have one in real life? As a biologist, I knew I had to get a team together and create it in real life because I wanted to take it to places it had never been before.”
Thus, came the birth of Veredus Labs, which has been thrust into the global spotlight with its latest “lab-on-chip” test kit that can detect seven major tropical diseases, including Zika and dengue, from just a drop of blood.
“Zika is now becoming very famous in Singapore due to the outbreak in recent years, but we developed this chip in 2015 and it can also detect different species of malaria, serotypes of dengue, chikungunya and other flaviviruses,” said Dr Rosemary.
It takes about two to three hours to identify the exact pathogen, which used to take days or weeks to learn. Besides the Zika kit, the Singapore-based medical diagnostics company also has a kit that in 2009 became the first that could detect the H1N1 flu virus, and a chip that can determine if food has been contaminated with salmonella, E.coli and other agents.
Veredus has since sold the kits to international corporations and government agencies that use them in places like airports and immigration checkpoints. The kits were even recently used at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil where it was used for surveillance.