Former Dalriad develops cancer analysis app for smart phones

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A former student of Dalriada School and the Northern Regional College in Ballymoney is behind a clever new smart phone game that could discover new treatments for cancer.

Mark Hastings (26) is CEO of Guerilla Tea, a Dundee based technology company, which won the contract to design a smart phone app for Cancer Research UK.

The game, which launched earlier this year, is proving to be so successful that in the space of one month ‘citizen scientists’ have analysed DNA that would have taken a scientist six months to analyse by eye.

How did they do this? - Well, by simply playing the new smartphone game, ‘Play to Cure: Genes in Space’.

Mark, is a former pupil of Portrush Primary School, Dalriada and NRC Ballymoney. He set up Guerilla Tea with a group of friends that he studied with at Abertay University.

Mark explained the thinking behind the app: “We’ve always believed that games technology has the potential to provide huge benefits to other sectors, and this project is wonderful example of that.

“Cancer Research UK’s scientists must decode vast amounts of data to discover cancer-causing genetic faults in order to develop new treatments for patients. The human eye is needed to spot patterns in the data because computers aren’t precise enough. It would take the human eye years to do this manually - and that’s why the app is proving to be so successful.

“The collective clout and the sheer numbers of gamers across the world will boost accuracy with many pairs of eyes examining each stretch of DNA.”

Thanks to the clever app, over 1.5 million classifications have been made by gamers from every corner of the globe.

Hannah Keartland of Cancer Research UK said: “It’s still early days but we believe the collective force of global gamers could have a massive impact and speed up our life-saving research.”

So, do you fancy becoming a ‘citizen scientist’ then download the app and have a go yourself. The game is available to download now for free for anyone with an Android or Apple smartphone.