We have the technology and capability to develop an all-in-one microarray that can provide complete information on a microbial community, including algae, protozoa, bacteria, archaea, fungi, viruses, antimicrobial resistance, biotoxins and functional activity. With lab-on-a-chip, nanotechnology integrating a variety of the latest methods for a large number of sample types (water, sediment, waste water, food, blood, etc.) it is possible to make a desktop instrument that would have universal applications. There are two major thrusts to this grand challenge that will allow us to take advantage of the latest biotechnological breakthroughs in real time. The first is a bioengineering thrust that will take advantage of the large multidisciplinary laboratories in developing key technologies. Miniaturization will reduce reagent costs and increase sensitivity and reaction kinetics for rapid turnaround time. New and evolving technologies will allow us to port the designs for state-of-the-art microarrays today to completely new nanotechnology inspired platforms as they mature. The second thrust is in bioinformatics to use our existing expertise to take advantage of the rapidly evolving landscape of bioinformatics data. This increasing capacity of the data set will allow us to resolve microbial species to greatly improved levels and identify functional genes beyond the hypothetical protein level. A cheap and portable assay would impact countless areas, including clean water technologies, emerging diseases, bioenergy, infectious disease diagnosis, climate change, food safety, environmental clean-up and bioterrorism. In my opinion it is possible but it will require a very large group of multidiscplenary scientists from multiple institutions crossing many international boundaries and funding over a 5-year period of more than $100 million. Given the impact that this SuperChip could have it is well worth the price!!!
Hazen TC. 2013. The SuperChip for microbial community structure and function from all environments. Microbial Biotechnology 6:450-452.