The semiconductor industry is going to do to biotech what it has already done to computers: make things dramatically smaller, faster, cheaper, and more powerful:
Philadelphia, October 31, 2002 - At the Chips-to-Hits conference in Philadelphia today, STMicroelectronics (NYSE:STM), the world's third largest semiconductor maker, presented a prototype silicon chip for DNA analysis that integrates both DNA amplification and detection on the same chip. This device is based on Micro-Electro-Mechanical-System (MEMS) technology that applies silicon-chip manufacturing technologies to produce miniature devices with a combination of mechanical, electrical, fluidic and optical elements.
The primary end use targeted by the DNA analysis chip is in medical diagnostics, to detect genetically related disease directly at the point of care without the delays of laboratory testing. Other applications of the DNA analysis chip include drug discovery - the search for more effective new drugs, the testing of livestock for genetic disease, and the monitoring of water supplies for biological contamination.
"The advantage of using silicon rather than plastic or glass for this function is that it has excellent thermal properties, which is extremely useful in analysis techniques like the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) which are based on temperature cycling," said Benedetto Vigna, Manager of ST's MEMS Development Unit. "In addition it can be 'micromachined' readily using well-known and cost effective silicon-chip manufacturing techniques."
Compared to traditional tests, the ST silicon MEMS device offers a very compact solution that reduces the overall testing cost and delivers results in minutes. Using this technology, extremely small quantities of fluid can be analyzed; the limitation is in the external hardware used to transfer samples.
One of the world's leading manufacturers of conventional electronic silicon chips, ST also develops and manufactures silicon MEMS devices using in-house-developed technologies covering a broad range of applications. The microfluidic technology used in the DNA analysis device builds on the company's long experience in the manufacture of inkjet printer chips combining electronic and fluidic elements.
"Our goal in presenting this device to the life sciences community here at Chips-to-Hits," said Barbara Grieco, Business Development Manager in ST's Printhead and Microfluidics Business Unit, "is to identify potential partners in the biomedical field for the joint development of new devices that combine ST's knowhow in silicon MEMS technology with the partners expertise in biomedical technologies and markets." ST currently partners with leading companies in other fields for the joint development of MEMS-based devices for inkjet printers and optical switches.
The prototype DNA analysis device presented at Chips-To-Hits performs DNA amplification in microscopic channels buried in the silicon and then identifies DNA fragments in the sample. DNA amplification is performed using the Polymerase Chain Reaction technique. A prepared DNA sample mixed with suitable reagents flows into the buried channels in the chip where it is repeatedly cycled through three temperatures which doubles the quantity of DNA with each cycle. When the sample has been amplified sufficiently, it flows into a detection area on the same chip where gold electrodes are pre-loaded with DNA fragments. Fragments in the sample attach to matching fragments on the electrodes and are detected optically.
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