Radiation. Be it contact with a single person, or the unthinkable exposure of tens of thousands, Peter Rogan knows time is of the essence in determining the extent of contamination.
“When a person is exposed to radiation, information is collected from their cells and chromosomes. Scientists manually look at 500 or more cells to try and figure out how much a person has been exposed to – that is a labour-intensive task,” said the Biochemistry professor, who is cross-appointed in Computer Science and Epidemiology & Biostatistics. “I knew we could automate this – we could take a process where a lab technologist would need three hours to complete and do the same work in 10 minutes on a laptop.”
Rogan, President of Cytognomix Inc., located in the Western Research Parks, recently received a contract valued at more than a quarter million dollars to do just that with his Automated Dicentric Chromosome Identifier (ADCI) software system. Established in 2009, the biotechnology company also designs and markets advanced genomic components and software-based solutions in the diagnosis, evaluation and management of cancer, prenatal disorders and other genetic diseases.
This latest funding is part of the Build in Canada Innovation Program, a federal initiative that invests in Canadian innovations.
Rogan’s software collects and analyzes multiple digital images of cells containing chromosomes exposed to radiation and then generates data on the behaviour of those cells and chromosomes faster and more accurately than any current method. It is being tested by Health Canada, who is partnering in the project with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. They are taking the results of their last international exercise and comparing the results they obtained with the software system versus what they did manually.
“The question is, if we have some sort of nasty event and 10,000 people needed to be tested, because maybe only 9,000 were actually exposed, we can handle that. Right now, nobody else in the world can handle that,” said Rogan, who is also working with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
“Our goal is not only to sell this product around the world, but also to collaborate with other biodosimetry labs,” added Rogen, noting the software could also be used in the health-care field with patients who are potentially exposed to too much radiation. “We want to see this project all over the world in preparation for who knows what. We think the world needs to be ready before anything possibly happens, and that’s what we’re doing.”
London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos recently announced the funding at Western’s Convergence Centre.
“The government’s investments in Ontario businesses, such as Cytognomix Inc., are creating economic opportunities and good quality jobs for the middle class in our communities,” he said. “Through its research, Cytognomix Inc. helps improve Canadians’ lives, health and well-being. This is innovative work being carried out right here at Western, right here in London.”