Is it possible to have non-trivial solutions in the creation of national food safety systems? Igor Popkov, the chairman of the board of "Ruschembio", the head of the committee for development of markets of Russian Nanoindustry Association (RNA), told STRF.ru about special nomination in the second All-Russian competition of engineering in the field of nanotechnology (RCE.Nano), which is held by the Fund for infrastructure and educational programs of "Rusnano".
- In accordance with the experience of the first RCE.Nano, that had been held last year, young scientists - students and graduates take part in it with quite adult, serious projects, suggesting a real practical way. Your idea is to offer them simple and affordable creating food quality assessment system as one of the objectives seems to be on the front border. Tell us more about this idea and explain what results you want to achieve.
- I would reword the question. We have supervisors, laboratories which test foods for harmful substances and give a formal opinion. They use for it arbitration methods of analysis which cannot be ignored or changed. While the future is connected with all sorts of rapid methods of monitoring with wide variety of options: whether the detection of diseases and evaluation of the quality of food, water, air. In other words, you have to check it quickly and if there is a suspicion you should send it to a laboratory, where guaranteed (not fast) analysis will be fulfilled and you get final conclusion with a large number of documents. And the issue, connected with rapid diagnostics for the consumer market, is not enough elaborated. That is why I announced this nomination for RCE.Nano: let's come up with solutions for commercial organizations or representatives of the consumer market which will allow us to determine parameters of food products, which are important to control. (And if after the rapid analysis there are suspicions, we should send results for further research in a laboratory.)
We use such test systems for a number of indicators: for example, in the analysis of pregnancy or a use of narcotic substances. It is important to emphasize that there is a laboratory control and there is an express control. And we ask participants of the contest to come up with the original system for the rapid control. We explain them that they are smart-minded. And that's why they can go for a break, where too-informed specialist will fold, because his knowledge and experience sometimes can be a kind a block for his activity. Therefore, I believe that this contest is for young professionals whose background is already sufficient, but at the same time youthful imagination still remains and there are no "blocks". Here's my basic position.
- Can"Ruschembio" become a platform for such developments?
- When "Ruschembio" project was set up, it was consisted of two parts. The first is a creation of storage of reagents and consumables for the import test systems, which is popular in the market. Then to replace them with russian with the help of "Rusnano".
- That is, to help our developers to createdomestic counterparts?
- Exactly. In 2013, we published the first catalog of russian chemicals for research. And we have already started to sell these reagents to foreign markets. At that time, we decided to create warehouse and service center, which would help our scientists to obtain necessary reagents and maintenance services faster. The project was successfully implemented, then "Rusnano" escaped from the founders. With regard to sanctions, they even help in the creation of domestic counterparts. As I said recently at a conference in Armenia, I confessed the principle of the inverted pyramid. Our scientists have come up with something, and then look for somewhere to sell the invention. And I, on the contrary, know the market, know what is in a demand. I know the new in this field. In addition, in terms of sanctions, which are likely to be extended, the control of food quality will be important for our food producers of raw materials in different areas. I mean internal control. Not supervisory. But cheap and fast. I say: guys, RCE.Nano starts. Let's come up with a replacement to import which is now in a demand. Here's the basic idea.
- Do you mean that regional nanocenters should be involved in these developments?
- Of course. We have an understanding that our russian product is not in this market segment. For example, enzyme immunoassay kits for the determination of mycotoxins are imported, and cost 60 thousand rubles per plate on 96 analytical samples. Mycotoxins are present in plant products and can cause serious failure of the body. Chemists count tens of hazardous substances for human health which are produced by fungi. It infects wheat, beans and sunflower seeds, as well as fruits and vegetables.
The Russian all-Union State Standard normalizes five mycotoxins. You can define others as desired. There are Russian companies which are trying to make such sets. The cost is significantly lower than import has - 15-20 thousand rubles. Such developments are in "Ruschembio". But immunosorbent assay is a laboratory method. My appeal to the participants of RCE.Nano is to find a breakthrough solution for rapid analysis.
- The main form for rapid diagnosis is a test strip. Are you waiting for new test strips?
- In fact, immunosorbent assay and test strip are a complex of "antigen-antibody", that implemented in the diagnostic test system. Immunosorbent assay is a laboratory method and immunochromatographic assay (test strip) is for a consumer. But we do not limit an imagination of researcher by format.
Here is an example. I was in Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan. The students and young staff came up with a device in the form of a ring for rapid diagnosis of certain human diseases. You put it on a finger, and the blood falls into the four holes of the ring; the blood is analyzed inside the ring for four kinds of pathogens. Once again, this is an example. We are waiting for original solutions of our problems.
I believe that our young people are talented. I do not want to restrict them in a search of ways to solve. We set such a task for them. There is a demand for it.