This month we’re chatting to Marc Flanagan and getting an insight into his role as Senior Scientist at QuantuMDx.
What does your role involve?
I’m a Senior Scientist in the Assay Team. My role is in DNA extraction, which is the ‘front end’ of our devices, essentially. I’m in charge of a small team who develop and test novel technologies that can extract pathogen DNA from biological samples of interest. This DNA is then used by the rest of the device to diagnose disease. Our focus is to make DNA extraction rapid, flexible and efficient, without breaking the bank. It’s not easy, but our team is great, and we’ve made excellent progress. My role is more office-based than it used to be. However, I always try to contribute to the day-to-day work in the laboratory, which I enjoy very much.
What excites you the most about your role at QuantuMDx?
It’s fantastic to be working towards something that could be a real game-changer. To be developing a portable diagnostic device that is accurate, flexible and affordable could genuinely help millions of people in low/middle-income countries, and potentially in high-income countries too. It’s not difficult to motivate yourself to get out of bed in the morning.
What are the biggest challenges working at QuantuMDx/working in this field?
If developing our devices was easy, someone would’ve done it before! For me personally, though, it’s a challenge to develop a one-size-fits-all DNA extraction technology. We need to work with many different sample types – swabs, blood, urine, and so on – and be able to detect nucleic acids at many different concentrations within those samples. The abundance of DNA can vary wildly between diseases and between sample types, as well as between individual donors. Despite this, we’re well on our way to succeeding, which is exciting.
Why is QuantuMDx such a great place to work?
The direction and purpose of the company is obviously pretty inspiring. However, I have to say that the people make the place. The company recruits very well, and everyone is friendly, hard-working and fun.
What are you looking forward to achieving with QuantuMDx over the coming year?
2019/20 is the year when QuantuMDx will have a product certified and ready to go. It will be a brilliant achievement by everyone, and it’ll be amazing to be a part of that.
And what about over the coming years?
Seeing our devices being used by real people, in the field, saving lives.
Who have been your role models in life and why?
I’d be doing my family a disservice if I didn’t say that they’re my role models. I’m very lucky to have such a great set of people around me. My mam, in particular, is an incredible person in so many ways. Supportive, hard-working, compassionate, selfless, clever, funny. The best.
If there was one prolific scientist, historical or present, that you’d like to work with, who would it be and why?
This is a difficult one! There are so many great scientists around today, but since David Attenborough has an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Cambridge University, I’ll go for him! It would be amazing to spend time with someone who has that much experience of the world, and all its aspects.
If you could have been the inventor of anything in the world, what would it be?
The wheel. But… I’d have patented it first!
As a scientist, what are your hopes for the future?
Without being too ‘deep’, I hope that our desire for research and thirst for knowledge continues, and that we don’t stop trying to discover more about ourselves and the world, and that all of that information can be used in a positive way, to help people and to improve the lives of everyone. On a more specific note, we really need to act on antibiotic resistance, whether that means developing new ones or being far more selective in our use of them. Things could go badly wrong if we don’t. Hopefully, QuantuMDx can be part of the solution.
What are your interests outside of work?
I do triathlons, so I spend a lot of time swimming, cycling and running. As much as I like my job, I think it’s so important to have hobbies and passions outside of the workplace. And if it keeps you fit and healthy, that’s even better! I also speak a bit of Spanish, and I love my food, so I enjoy finding new places to go. Saying that, I’m getting married later this year, so my other interests might have to take a backseat for a while…
Tell us something surprising about yourself.
The music on my iPod always surprises people. Ever listened to Pantera?
If you’re interested in joining Team QuantuMDx, we currently have career opportunities available.