for Microfluidics and Medical Diagnostics Teams with Industry Partners
In the September 2004 issue of Business
2.0, an article titled “Seven
New Technologies That Change Everything” by G. Pascal Zachary
identifies microfluidics as one of the hottest emerging technologies
because it offers the potential of eliminating expensive laboratory
tests and the lengthy wait for results. According to Zachary, sales
of currently available microfluidic test kits are projected to reach
$300 million by the end of the year. In fact, says Zachary, the U.S.
Postal Service has already installed microfluidic detection systems
at major processing centers in an effort to identify anthrax laced mail.
actions are not surprising to Andrew Downard, product development
manager for the Center for Microfluidics and Medical Diagnostics
at Notre Dame. “Microfluidics research has been going on for
quite awhile,” says Downard. “It’s just a matter
of time before it makes the full-fledged jump from university laboratories
to commercial applications, where small, cost-effective test kits
could be sold over-the-counter. Bacteria, viral infections, and diseases
such as tuberculosis or SARS ... could be identified quickly and
One of the goals of the center, which
was established in 2003, is to facilitate the type of technology
transfer Downard describes. In fact, the center is working with Scientific
Methods., Inc., of Granger, Ind., on the development of a portable
beach-monitoring sensor that can detect dangerous E.
Coli in a matter
of minutes. Currently, the decision to close public beaches is driven
by laboratory tests, which take up to two days to process. Researchers
are incorporating a bacteria trap into the hand-held sensor. The
trap uses A/C electro-osmotic flow to force bacteria into highly
concentrated lines, giving municipal officials real-time information
about the water quality to better safeguard public health.
“We’ve been working with Scientific Methods since April
2004,” says Downard, “and it’s been a good match.
We have the expertise in fluid mechanics, and they have the expertise
in microbiology and business applications.”
According to Downard,
the company has also been instrumental in helping the center with
research and development space for Microfluidic Applications (MFA),
a separate company founded by faculty within the center. The company
serves as an incubator for research projects that offer the best
possibilities for commercialization. Personnel in the company are
working with researchers to develop viable products. They are also
applying for Small Business Innovative Research grants and seeking
private-equity investments to fund these efforts.
One of the devices
MFA is developing is a Zetafilter, which will be used for the electrophoretic
separation and concentration of bacteria, viruses, and proteins.
Separation is based on the size and charge of the molecule, providing
faster processing times and more selectivity than currently available
products. Its principal applications will be for medical, proteomic,
and environmental researchers. Downard recently completed a working
prototype of the Zetafilter and is currently working to commercialize
the technology.The center director is Hsueh-Chia
Chang, the Bayer
Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. David
T. Leighton Jr., professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering,
is associate director.
For more information about the center, its
faculty, and current projects, visit
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