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2014-04-16 07:30

Data mining tool for genome identification developed in Borås


Two students at the University of Borås have an exciting sidetrack to their master studies in resource recovery. They develop a tool for data mining of DNA and for speeding up the identification and analysis. Recently they got financial support from Innovationskontor Vast (IKV) and business mentorship from the local institute Ink Inkubatorn in Borås to develop a business concept for their project named Helixworks.

Photo of Nimesh Chandra och Sachin Chalapati.

But let us start from the beginning. Nimesh Chandra and Sachin Chalapati chose to study at the masters programme Resource Recovery at the University of Borås, more or less by coincidence, or then maybe not. They did know that they wanted to study in Europe, influenced by one of their teachers at the university at home in India. Their study field was biotechnology. Sachin focused his Bachelor studies on degradation of plastics and had already done a trip to Norway for a workshop on genes.

Resource recovery in Borås on top

They did a search on google, and on top of the search list came resource recovery in Borås, a small city where they recycle almost all waste and turn it into biofuel or new material, a city with a small university where they have research and education focusing on resource recovery.
−We just said wow! We studied the syllabus of the master programme and it seemed just the perfect match for what we wanted to do.

Sweden was full of surprises, such as how Swedes deals with waste.
−We were really astonished when we heard that Sweden actually imports waste from Norway due to lack of waste. Can you imagine! A country lacking of waste! In India they can take a lot of inspiration from Sweden.

They were just as impressed by how things worked at their new university.
−There is a huge difference in teaching and the approach between lecturers and students. Here in Sweden the teachers treat us as equals. The teachers here happily share their knowledge. In India the hierarchy is more strictly.

Nimesh and Sachin are on their final course, a one year final thesis project. Nimesh is doing a project on fermentation of sugars to ethanol. He is designing a process to ferment hexose and pentose sugars.  His examiner is Prof. Mohammad Taherzadeh. Sachin is carrying out a project on polymer treatment using chemicals for converting plastics into fuels with Prof. Mikael Skrifvars as the examiner.

Initiated project on image identification and DNA-sequence analysis

The studies are running well. But obviously they suffer from some sort of restlessness, so to speak. Next to biotechnology they are very interested in informatics. When going to Sweden they also brought along the idea to do a business project on online shopping based on image identification and with their own algorithm. They got in touch with different people about this and aroused the interest of an angel investor who supported their idea and they went back to India over the summer between semesters to try their idea. The project was named Helixworks.

However the angel investor cut the funding considering the project being in a too early phase. Disappointed they went back to continue the studies in Borås. After sleepless nights Sachin came up with a new idea, to combine the same image processing algorithm in biology, or more specifically, in genome data mining. They presented the idea once more, now for Ink Inkubatorn in Borås. They got financial support from Innovationskontor Väst IVK for an investigation of the potential by doing a market survey. It came out well and recently they got a second support of 171 000 SEK from IKV and ALMI to develop their business concept . Currently they have engaged several researchers at the Uppsala University and IT-developers. This autumn they hope to have a prototype of their tool ready for testing.

The new tool will be used for handling complex data and get readable and understandable information from it. They expect to be able to speed up disease identification as well as to bring analysis processes to a cheaper cost. Today it takes several weeks to analyze a genome and the costs for keeping data bank and analyses are huge. They expect the new technology to be a good support for medical treatment purposes, the genome research as well as the development of new drugs.
−We are really grateful for getting this possibility to develop Helixworks.

Impressions of Borås

−Small…Nice. Not much traffic and no HONKING. Such a scene would be impossible in India where drivers constantly keep a finger on the horn. Close to the forest, colder weather. The people are nice very calm and reserved. In India you do not feel weird speaking to random people, but here I think they would consider you weird. We have not seen any aggression. People follow the rules.

Impressions of the University of Borås

−Small. There is a big difference in teaching and the approach between lecturers and students. Here in Sweden the teachers treat the students as an equal. The teachers share their knowledge happily. In India there is a more strict hierarchy. We were prepared for the differences in the teaching as one of our teachers in India, Dr. B. Jay Kumar Singh had been at a university in Austria.

Miscellaneous

Nimesh Chandra
Age: 24
From: Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India

Sachin Chalapati
Age: 23
From: Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Both
Previous studies: B.Tech in Biotechnology, Koneru Lakshmaiah University, Andhra Pradesh, India.
Current studies: MSc in Resource Recovery – Industrial Biotechnology at the University of Borås.
Last year Nimesh and Sachin participated as Young Nordic Entrepreneurs at the Nordic Lifescience Days in Stockholm. They were the only representatives from Västra Götalandsregion and only one of three participants from Sweden. Some participants asked with astonishment how on earth it is possible to do a project on computational biology in the city of Borås, where such research is not even carried out.

Text and photo: Solveig Klug