ST and MobiDiag aim for advanced biochip

STMicroelectronics today announced a joint development agreement with MobiDiag to create a complete system for genomic-based detection of infectious diseases based on a silicon MEMS biochip.

STMicroelectronics (ST) today announced a joint development agreement with MobiDiag to create a complete system for genomic-based detection of infectious diseases based on a silicon MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) biochip.

According to ST, the system will allow clinical diagnostics laboratories faster, cheaper and more user-friendly access to genomic-based techniques that will fundamentally change the way infectious diseases are detected.

Rising health-care costs along with the threat of widespread antibiotic resistance have generated a growing need for rapid and cost-efficient diagnostic solutions. Current testing methods, lacking in automation, speed, and accuracy, are reportedly unable to rise to these challenges.

Currently, conventional laboratories perform DNA analysis with large and costly equipment that can take several hours to use. Consequently, physicians must frequently prescribe antibiotics or antivirals prior to determining the exact pathogen causing an infection.

STs’ micro-fluidic MEMS technology reportedly makes it possible to create a micromachined silicon chip with very fine channels for the manipulation of microlitre quantities of liquid. This liquid can be moved through the capillaries and can be heated to very precisely controlled temperatures. Miniaturisation of the diagnostic device means that smaller samples can be used, the quantity of reagents is reduced, and reaction times are consequently much shorter.

Silicon is the ideal material for micro-fluidic applications because it has good thermal conductivity, allowing a uniform temperature to be maintained over a wide area. It also has a low thermal capacity, allowing fast thermal cycles. Silicon also has the advantage of allowing electronic controls to be integrated on the same piece of silicon plus the convenience of being based on mainstream chip-manufacturing technology.

ST has developed samples of a disposable, standalone device, which performs DNA amplification into buried silicon channels, and detection of target DNA sequences. ST and MobiDiag will provide complete systems to development partners in 2004, with a commercial product available to diagnostic labs in 2005.

‘We feel there is enormous potential in using a silicon-based lab-on-a-chip for genomic detection of infectious diseases,’ said Ugo Carena, Vice President for the Computer Peripherals and Industrial Group of ST.

‘This alliance joins two of the key competencies needed to develop a marketable biochip product; the micro-fluidics technology from ST, and the molecular microbiology expertise from MobiDiag.

‘Their unique understanding of infectious disease diagnostics and of our target market makes them the ideal partner to generate a complete system. With this partnership we believe we carry the entire spectrum of knowledge needed to detect key diseases and produce a marketable product,’ added Carena.