Juan Gallo
2015, Colombia
Designing bioinformatics tools to provide a cheaper, faster way of identifying pathogens.

Everyday human beings are exposed to a wide array of pathogens (i.e. agents of infectious disease) that put our health at risk or even lead to death; this makes early detection of vital importance so that the disease may be quickly treated and eliminated. For example the traditional diagnostic procedure used to identify pulmonary infections consists of taking a saliva sample from the patient which is sent to the laboratory to be cultured. But a diagnosis cannot be achieved until the microorganism held within the sample has been allowed to grow.

To reduce the time required to precisely identify a pathogen, the young researcher Juan Gallo is developing a set of bioinformatic tools that also lower costs as compared to existing diagnostic methods for infectious disease. His algorithms can locate and identify the unique, genomic areas found within two types of fungi responsible for respiratory diseases affecting millions of people: Histoplasma capsulatum and Paracoccidioides brasiliensis.

Gallo´s algorithms scan the sequence of nucleotides found within the fungi´s DNA, locating and amplifying only those sequences belonging to the relevant pathogen. This process proves that it is possible to provide early diagnosis at an even earlier stage of each disease. Gallo highlights that as time progresses and more data is included, researchers will gain access to a valuable data set which includes the causes and treatments for numerous pathologies.