IISc start-up builds world's first food grade DNA/RNA stain

IISc campus
A science start-up, incubated at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) here, has built the world's first food-grade DNA/RNA stain. This might cut the time taken to diagnose conditions such as HIV to a day, from 45 days at present.

Azooka Life Sciences, which got seed funding from Society of Innovation and Development  at IISc, claims the pending patent is for a nucleic acid gel stain, developed from an undisclosed plant source. The product used in diagnostic kits would be commercially available by June, said Alex D Paul, co-founder and president, Azooka.

Azooka has branded the discovery as Tintorang, a combination for tinto, a Portuguese word  for red, and rang, the Hindi word for colour.

Typically, diagnostic labs need to culture bacteria in a blood test to identify disease. This can take from three to 45 days. Once the bacteria is identified, doctors start the treatment with the right medication. Tintorang, which uses DNA markers, could as mentioned earlier bring down the time taken to diagnose the cause to a day, helping doctors to begin treatment in many cases the same day.

"The best property is that it doesn’t alter the structure of the DNA and can be used for multiple tests,” said H S Savithri, whose advice played a key role in the research activities of Azooka.

J Fathima Benazir, co-founder and chief executive officer of Azooka, developed the DNA/RNA stains, also described as environmentally safe. Researchers in DNA analysis, DNA forensics and genomic labs are constantly exposed to toxic and carcinogenic nucleic acid stains. The currently available ones are synthetic and known to cause mutations, affecting one's health. Improper disposal causes environmental and aquatic hazards.

"Tintorang would be safe  even on consumption, as it is a food additive and thereby would play a significant role in protecting the scientific community from exposure to carcinogens and mutagens," said Benazir.

Azooka is working with various diagnostic kit makers to transfer the technology, so that they work with diagnostic labs across India and other global markets.

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