Rijeka students use good bacteria to develop a detection method.
A student team from Rijeka SmartFood has won the finals of the National Student Startup competition held in March with their concept involving good bacteria that detect colon cancer. Their success is not surprising, as the idea the team members – Filip Petrović, Ines Žarak, Mia Krapić, Dora Klisović, Larisa Mandić, Martina Dajak, Željka Maglica and Andrea Bukša – came up with could save millions of lives in the future, reports Poslovni.hr on March 26, 2016.
SmartFood is designed as a food product based on the good bacteria or probiotic cultures. However, in this case, the bacteria are really “good” – they have the ability to detect the first indicators of the disease developing inside the body. When a bacteria recognizes a specific biomarker, it begins to secrete the pigment that colours the stool and therefore signals the person to visit the doctor for further diagnostic procedure. This implies that the health status of people prone to certain diseases, as well as the timely detection and treatment, would be greatly facilitated.
“The idea seemed interesting to other students and professors, but it was perhaps a little bit ahead of its time, so you might say that is has been somewhat seen as an utopian idea, and no one was working on it until the application process opened for the incubator StartUp City of Rijeka”, said Andrea Bukša, member of the team. Discussing the details of the project, she added that it is currently in the development phase during which they are dealing with the computer modelling and prediction, and they have come up with good results in some areas, which indicates the feasibility of their concept. Most of the support, they point out, came from the Department of Biotechnology of the University of Rijeka, Science-Technology Park STeP Ri, City of Rijeka and StartUp incubator.
Next comes the cultivation of such bacteria in the lab and its analysis in the laboratory conditions. For this, they will need resources and they are currently looking for them through tenders, funds, private investors and so on. The laboratory phase would last about a year.
“The other stages, such as clinical research, developing the industrial production and designing the final product, we would implement in cooperation with the partner company, and this would be one of the major pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies. A research like this usually lasts for several years. We assume that this is the right time for such a product to find its way to the market because the problem of colon cancer is not going away, and people are not aware enough how important early detection is in the treatment of this disease”, siad Andrea Bukša.