Updated on 24 October 2013
(From L-R) - JN Medsys chief executive Dr Johnson Ng, R&D director Dr Teu Koon Kiat; and Camtech executive director and JN Medsys investor Mr Kuok Meng-Han
Dr Johnson Ng dedicated his research developing innovative platforms for polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based diagnostic for 10 years and was successful in developing rapid point-of-care diagnostics of infectious diseases, which is a bead-based microarray technique. For this he has been accredited with four patents. While pursuing his PhD degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Dr Ng always wanted to develop a PCR that is much faster than the existing technologies and could be available to the researchers at much affordable price.
After obtaining his doctoral degree, Dr Ng conceptualized the idea of developing a digital PCR technology during his tenure with a Singapore-based medical technology company. His idea was to develop a quick PCR, which was 80 percent faster than conventional PCRs, and a technology to look forward for faster genome analysis. Sensing a promising potential in the technology conceived by Dr Ng, Dr Meng-Han Kuok, founder of Camtech Management, an incubator of early-stage technology start-ups in the fields of microfluidics, lab-on-a-chip, wireless sensing and biotechnology, came up the idea of starting a company for commercializing the technology and formed JN Medsys in 2010.
About the digital PCR
PCR is a method for amplifying a specific fragment of DNA into billions of copies and is one of the most widely used and sensitive method for DNA detection. Dr Ng developed a digital PCR embedded with a technology for detecting DNA with extremely high sensitivity and precision.
Highlighting the technology of his digital PCR, Dr Ng explains, "It functions by partitioning a typical PCR reaction into thousands of nanolitre sub-reactions such that each has at most a single copy of DNA. By counting the number of positive reactions after PCR, the number of copies of DNA present in the sample can be directly enumerated. Until now, quantitative PCR (qPCR) is a normal standard in many diagnostics applications. However, this emerging digital PCR method provides advantages over the qPCR."
Quantiative PCR allows DNA sample in the reaction to be quantified, however, it requires use of a reference of a known amount. By comparing the real-time amplification kinetics between the unknown and known sample, the amount of the former is determined. In dPCR, the amount of unknown DNA sample can be quantified by directly counting the number of positive sub-reactions after the PCR. This is achieved without having to monitor the amplification real-time, which is a necessity in qPCR.