Kaushik Sengupta, assistant professor of electrical engineering, talks about his work on developing a low-cost silicon-based biosensor chip for medical diagnostics.
This millimeter-sized, low-cost medical diagnostic chip relies on new technology developed by Sengupta(link is external) and his team to detect pathogens and disease biomarkers. The invention integrates optical structures and electronic systems into sophisticated, fluorescence-based sensors and scanners. Manufactured using the same process for making the chips that power today’s smartphones and other electronics, this technology can drastically reduce the cost of medical diagnostics, a rapidly growing area in health care.
Molecular diagnostic devices detect and measure nucleic acids and proteins, which can be biomarkers for specific health conditions across a range of bacterial, viral and parasitic infections. However, today’s diagnostic methods involve collecting blood or other biological samples and shipping them to a laboratory for analysis by skilled technicians using fluorescence-based optical scanners, which are bulky, expensive and nonportable. The device invented by Sengupta and his team enables the analysis of multiple molecular signatures simultaneously, making portable and low-cost diagnostic technology available at the point of care for use by personnel who have had relatively little training. Such a device could facilitate rapid testing for emerging diseases and outbreaks, thus shortening the response time of medical and public health officials.
The diagnostic system is made possible by work in the Sengupta lab that incorporates novel optical nanostructures in silicon-based integrated circuit technology to manipulate, control, filter, detect and process signals of light in the visible range. This system eliminates bulky external optical components, and miniaturizes the entire multiplexed fluorescence scanner, including the optics and electronics, in a single chip. When the biomolecules are tagged with optical labels, the computer chip can detect and quantify them with high precision, thus identifying pathogens and other disease-causing agents. With the ability to be powered by a lithium battery, this miniaturized diagnostic device makes portable biosensors a real possibility for the future of medicine and personalized health care.
Team members Lingyu Hong, graduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering
Collaborators Haw Yang, professor of chemistry; Hao Li, graduate student in the Department of Chemistry
Development status A patent has been issued, and another patent application is pending. Princeton is seeking outside interest for further development of this technology.
Funding source National Science Foundation, Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship