The overlap between semiconductor technology and medicine is growing, creating the same kinds of economies of scale that have fueled the semiconductor industry for the past five decades.
While technology has long held a place in the medical world, the idea that chips can save lives and improve health is a relatively new concept. That effort is gaining steam, too, as more capabilities are added onto silicon and more parts of the chip ecosystem are included.
One such example comes from Microfluidic ChipShop, a German chipmaker specializing in microfluidics, that has developed a medical assay system. Holger Becker, CSO at Microfluidic ChipShop, showed off the results of a Gates Foundation project to develop a hands free “modular micro fluidic cartridge based universal diagnostic system for global health applications” that can meet aggressive cost targets of less than $5 a test and $10,000 for the instrument.
The approach, which was presented by Becker at the recent Photonics West conference, starts with an injection-molded modular cartridge using re-agents in blister packs, chemicals, N-way valves, mixing, lysing, and detection elements for optical detection and electrical detection. The cartridge can have custom plumbing and sequencing to do a comprehensive range of diagnoses, including molecular DNA tests for tuberculosis, immuno-assay for HIV, antibody, and chemical tests. The instrument has interfaces to all the moving parts and the detectors to run the complete test and analysis. The technician loads a 20 to 200 micro-liter sample and everything else is automatic.
“We have a prototype instrument and and examples for all three classes of test,” Holger said. “The most complex is a hands-free, 40-step PCR process that is used to test for TB.” The company is working with the Gates foundation to find a path to completion and distribution of its solution.Read more here
Article from Michael Watts, Semiconductor Engineering