Oxford Nanopore Technologies invented the MinION device – a pocket-sized DNA/RNA sequencer that is based on protein nanopores set in an electrically resistant polymer membrane. It works by passing an ionic current through the nanopores, creating a specific disruption pattern in the current that is used to identify the molecule. This is similar to the antennae of insects, and it fascinated me. So, I wrote to Oxford Nanopore expressing my wish to join its MinION Access Programme (MAP).

Minions is an upcoming American 3D computer-animated comedy film and a prequel/spin-off to Despicable Me (2010) and Despicable Me 2 (2013). It is being produced by Illumination Entertainment for Universal Pictures. Written by Brian Lynch, it will be directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, and produced by Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy. Sandra Bullock voices Scarlet Overkill, the villain of the film and Jon Hamm will voice her husband, inventor Herb Overkill. The film will premiere on June 18, 2015, at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, and is scheduled to be released in the United States on July 10, 2015. The film was first foreshadowed in the ending credits of Despicable Me 2, where Stuart, Kevin and Bob, three of Gru’s Minions, are seen auditioning for the film.

Oxford Nanopore is organizing its first conference, a two day event) on all things nanopore in London, aptly named as London Calling. Among the many interesting talks, the most anticipated talks is from Oxford Nanopore CTO Clive Brown’s talk announcing the future things to expect from Oxford Nanopore.

After an introduction from Oxford Nanopore CEO Gordon Sanghera, several talks by MAP participants kicked off the meeting.  While much of several of these talks has already been published, new details emerged as well.

Notorious nanopore fanboy Nick Loman described his experience using MinION to analyze both a Salmonella outbreak and the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, including taking sequencing into the field.  In the case of Salmonella, in just 100 minutes of sequencing a firm conclusion was reached on the nature of the outbreak.

Yutaka Suzuki described using MinION also for disease surveillance, this time for Dengue fever, with an isothermal amplification (LAMP) generating material for sequencing.

When the day was over, we went to the conference dinner at the Skyloft, which had panoramic views of London. Yet this was overshadowed by the news of MinION going to space. Yes, NASA’s Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science division plans to fly a few MinIONS to the International space station. Given the confined space within the International Space Station and the necessity to conduct experiments within it, the mere size of the MinION makes it an ideal instrument to study the existence of terrestrial nucleic acids and proteins, as well as possible infectious outbreaks in space stations of the future.