By Shaharyar Lakhani
Earlier this year, Dr. Sanchita Bhadra and her team from the Ellington Lab at UT Austin built a kit that would make research easier to conduct in low resource areas. The kit is intended for students and instructors in these low-resource areas due to its cost effectiveness and ease of use. This would especially prove beneficial in giving research opportunities to aspiring researchers in need of a lab, allowing them to carry out procedures such as PCR using cellular reagents. (https://ellingtonlab.org/archive/2019/7/8/a-solution-to-research-in-low-resource-areas)
Since then, Dr. Bhadra and her team have also been working with scientists at Cambridge University and their research partners in various African countries to assess the utility of cellular reagents in molecular biology research and education. In initial studies, ready-to-use cellular reagents were sent to researchers in Cameroon and Ghana who were able to successfully perform PCR using these reagents. Cellular reagents seamlessly replaced pure enzymes in existing PCR protocols and performed robustly despite the vagaries of shipping and variations in humidity and temperature during storage. These exciting results demonstrating cellular reagents to be reliable alternatives to expensive pure enzymes have paved the way towards efforts in local production and more extensive outreach. Researchers in both UK and Africa are beginning to use expression constructs and production protocols developed in the Ellington Lab to undertake in-house production of cellular reagents. Starting with these foundational efforts, our global team aims to develop, test, and make freely available a comprehensive suite of common enzymatic reagents for molecular and synthetic biology.