Laser-printable point-of-care sensors for low-cost medical diagnosis and disease monitoring

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Optoelectronics Research Centre

Abstract

The research we are proposing here is to develop laser-printed paper-based sensors that will satisfy the criteria of being robust, inexpensive, user-friendly, disposable, and easy to deliver to those patients and members of the public who need to access point-of-care diagnosis. Such sensors would find a ready market within the healthcare and personalised medicine areas, and would prove invaluable when rapid deployment and testing is required in the case of epidemics or worse still, pandemics.

The proposal here is a first feasibility trial to confirm that we can indeed print viable biological material, for application in detection of selected breast-cancer biomarkers. The markers have been identified and validated by our IfLS/FOM team and are used to study the response of patients receiving chemotherapy. This would represent an original diagnostic product developed at the UoS. The work not only involves laser-based printing, and evaluating post-printing the viability of the printed biomaterial, but also investigating techniques for machining and processing of the paper substrate to be used for the sensor.

There are many advantage of this laser-printing approach that are uniquely appropriate for non-contact delivery of biomedical materials, namely:

Flexible processing (patterning and deposition) by simple changes to laser parameters.

Non-contact processing (patterning and printing) which is vital when dealing with biological agents.

No need for a specialist environment thereby eliminating unwarranted processing costs.

The inherent speed of laser printing: a direct analogy can be drawn from current laser printers which can print many sheets per second.

low production costs because of the possibility to mass-produce devices on a roll-to-roll scale.

High feature resolution allowing the creation of compact devices. (Our final goal in a future follow-up proposal will be to print biomaterials in the form of bar-codes for intelligent/active diagnostics readout via smart phone applications).

This laser-printing requires much smaller reagent/analyte volumes compared to current liquid based delivery (printing) methods.

Planned Impact

1. Economic impact.

Point-of-care healthcare provision is of fundamental importance whenever costs of diagnosis and treatment time are concerned. For all things medical, the old adage of time is money is universally true. The cost to the employer as well as the patients themselves of having to attend a hospital or clinic are considerable. The cost of staff within the healthcare centre, hospital or doctor's surgery are also extreme, and are set to rise by more than inflation for as far in the future as anyone cares to predict. This, coupled with the ageing and increasing population, leads to an unstoppable demand for medical and heathcare resources, and hence anything that can be brought to bear against this rising financal burden must be welcomed and resourced if deemed realistic and valuable.

While we cannot (yet) predict the net benefit for our proposed research into laser-printable paper-based point-of-care sensors, if they prove feasible, and can be manufactured and used within hospitals, at home and within the wider (particulary urban) community, then benefits to the UK and world economy would be considerable.

2. Societal impacts.

Societal impact is intimately related to the economic benefits that will occur.

All society, within the local community, the UK, or within the third world, where access to even the basic human 'rights' of clean water, medical care and prevention of catastrophic illness should be considered fundamental, stand to benefit from this technology. The ability to perform a diagnostic test that may have been delivered by mail (for example in the UK), from a central distribution point (in urban areas in countries overseas), or even by air-drop (in African or Asian countries) where travel and transport is problematic will bring the possibility of rapid and cheap diagnosis and tracking of diseases that currently decimate whole populations. From the most basic disease of influenza, to the disastrous possibility of the next epidemic within an already deprived and mal-nourished population, if you can rapidly and remoetely test and diagnose, then you can save lives. It is perhaps difficult to think of any more direct societal beneift than preserving or increasing life expectancy, and this must be considered one of the most important societal benefits.

In one sentence, the availabily of personalised point-of-care diagnostic sensors could revolutionise medical treatment.
 
Description The grant has enabled us to demonstrate that we can reliably print viable biological material, for application in detection of selected breast-cancer biomarkers. The markers have been identified and validated by our colleagues within the University of Southampton. The work not only involves laser-based printing, and evaluating post-printing the viability of the printed biomaterial, but also investigating techniques for machining and processing of the paper substrate to be used for a sensor that we are developing for point-of-care applications
Exploitation Route we have received further funding via a second standard grant as well as a much more recent grant for one of my principle research staff to work in the area of Antimicrobial resistance. We also have a range of new partners who are working with us in this very active and topical area of patient-administered diagnostics.
Sectors Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

 
Description we are now in dialogue with a range of industries and companies in the UK and overseas who stand to benefit from both this work, and further funding that has followed on. We now see this area as a new and exciting technique for mass-production of point-of-care diagnostics.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description EPSRC standard grant
Amount £720,997 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S003398/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2018 
End 06/2021
 
Description EPSRC standard grant
Amount £894,915 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N004388/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 10/2018
 
Description HIPS 2017
Amount £773,734 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P025757/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2020
 
Description BBI 
Organisation BBI Solutions
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We worked on samples and products that they provided to try out our methodology for their applications
Collaborator Contribution They engaged in dialogue with our group in the context of commercial needs associated with out printing technique.
Impact from our contacts with BBI, we have since won further funding from EPSRC in area that directly relate to their current product lines. Having access to such internal 'knowledge' for this market sector is invaluable.
Start Year 2015