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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > NanotechnologyKTN > Biosensing & Diagnostics

Fiona Brewer

The Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network (NanoKTN) has joined forces with the Sensors & Instrumentation KTN's Biosensing Special Interest Group (BioSIG) to organise a conference at Cranfield University on 17th September aimed at highlighting advances in biosensing and diagnostics that are being made possible by the application of micro and nanotechnology.

September 17th, 2009

Biosensing & Diagnostics

The scope of interest of the BioSIG includes biosensors (defined as compact analytical devices incorporating a biological or biologically derived sensing element either integrated within or intimately associated with a physicochemical transducer) and associated technologies and components of such devices and biosensing (defined as the specific application of a biosensor or any other sensor to monitor living systems).

The one-day event will look at how micro and nanotechnologies are enabling significant advances to be made in the performance and capabilities of biosensing and diagnostic devices. Technical presentations, balanced with industry professionals speaking at the event, will give the conference a commercial and academic perspective on these new areas of work.

The programme includes presentations from leading academic researchers and industrial R&D and manufacturing organisations on the use of MEMS, microfluidics, cantilever biosensor arrays, printed microstructures, MIPs, nanowires, DNA nanoswitches and paramagnetic particles. Some of the presentations are highlighted below:

Sandra Marlin, Concateno:
Sandra Marlin will look at the need for rapid, sensitive and robust point-of-care testing and how it is becoming increasingly important. The presentation will look at an optomagnetic immunoassay technology based on nanoparticles that are magnetically actuated and optically detected in oral fluid samples and the methods that help achieve this including the use of monoclonal antibodies and superparamagnetic particles.
D.M. Allen, Cranfield University:
The development of microfluidics is closely related to that of microelectronics with silicon evolving as the material of choice for microelectronics as it was an easy-to-source semiconductor that could be batch processed in the 2-D wafer format using planar technologies. Later silicon developments incorporated not only microelectronic functions but also mechanical functions to produce MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) devices and additional optical functions to produce MOEMS (microoptoelectromechanical systems) devices. As the concept of microfluidics developed, it was natural that researchers should use silicon micromachining as the enabling technology to manufacture microvalves, micropumps and microflow sensors. However, from the 1990s, microfabrication has been moving towards polymer processing with significant advantages in optical transparency, lower production costs as a result of replication techniques and the ability to build structures in the third dimension. All of these attributes suggest that the future of biomedical microfluidics is extremely bright in lab-on-a-chip applications. The EPSRC-funded Grand Challenge project "3-D Mintegration" will be highlighted in this talk to demonstrate the potential of novel microfluidic designs and the fabrication of microfluidic devices from polymers.
Sergey A. Piletsky, Cranfield Health
Over the past decade, growing attention has being given to molecular electronics and to the possibility of developing electronic devices that would operate at the molecular level. Among these devices are biosensors - new analytical devices that combine the high selectivity of biological systems with appropriate sensitivity of physical devices. Molecular receptors, reagents, catalysts and channels are potential effectors used to generate and transfer signals induced by molecular recognition. The development of biosensors and especially their commercialisation, however, has been hindered by several problems associated with the properties of biological material: (a) low stability, (b) poor performance in organic solvents, at low and high pHs and at high temperature, (c) absence of enzymes or receptors that are able to recognise certain target analytes, (d) problems with immobilisation of biomolecules, and (e) poor compatibility with micromachining technology. The search for possible solutions to the aforementioned problems has led scientists to the development of stable synthetic analogues of natural receptors and antibodies. A particularly exciting area of biomimetics is supramolecular chemistry. Piletsky's review will provide analysis of the recent development in MIP-based micro- and nano-systems and their application in biomimetic sensors and assays.

Tim Ryan, Epigem:
The challenges in developing products employing microfluidics is in delivering the diverse requirements for function integration (chemical, biological, electronic, etc) and the need for appropriate manufacturing processes. The talk will discuss techniques available for fabricating microfluidic devices and for integration of various kinds of sensor including electrode integration for both sensing and actuating functions. Some solutions for interfacing microfluidics to biological cells (suspended, adhered, scaffolded) will be included.
Robin Pittson, Gwent Electronic Materials:
Robin Pittson's presentation will look at his electrochemical investigation of microelectrodes constructed using different fabrication techniques. The purpose of this investigation was to increase the sensitivity of electrochemical base transducers per unit area of the working electrode compared to macro electrodes, utilising radial diffusion rather than planar diffusion at the surface of the working electrode. Both micro holes and micro bands have been evaluated and a systematic study has been carried out on the feature sizes of the working electrodes and the gaps between them.

Pete Corish, British Biocell International:
Pete Corish will look at what approaches and strategies can be adopted to accelerate the speed at which new ideas are transferred from feasibility to product and what factors and issues need to be addressed that reduce the attrition rate in the pipeline and increase the likelihood that technology graduates from feasibility into established applications.
For smaller companies and academic groups working at the front end of new technology innovation, there are benefits in thinking ahead of time of the type of questions that will be asked of the technology by a party interested in commercialising that research.
As a leading producer of gold nanoparticle and enzymatic reagents for over 5 billion POC tests annually, British Biocell International (BBI) is experienced at introducing new nanoparticle technologies into this competitive market and the presentation will cover some of the aspects of good and bad practice that can influence the successful adoption of innovative diagnostic technologies.

Peter Laitenberger, Sphere Medical:
In collaboration with Cranfield University, Sphere Medical is currently developing Point of Care sensors for monitoring the concentration of certain drugs in the blood of critically ill patients. These sensors employ molecularly imprinted polymers as novel receptors for the target drug. Prototypes of these sensors targeted at monitoring the anaesthetic drug propofol are currently being evaluated in the laboratory and the clinical setting.
The ability to measure the drug concentration in a blood sample at the Point of Care is expected to support the accurate titration of the therapeutic drug to a concentration that is appropriate for the individual patient. It will therefore be a key tool in individualising and optimising therapy at the patient level, promising to lead to new treatment regimes, improved patient outcomes and a reduction in the cost of care. In his presentation, Peter Laitenberger will discuss the key issues surrounding this.
If you are interested in joining the NanoKTN and attending future events, please visit or contact

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