Combining the Strengths of Mid-IR and Raman Spectroscopies on Single Chip for Rapid Bedside Biomarker Diagnostics

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC)


There is a pressing need for diagnostic tools that can produce results quickly from patients' bedsides and in doctors' surgeries. Rapid, accurate results will allow rapid therapeutic decisions and save lives at reduced cost. In contrast, existing technologies require transfer of samples to centrally located laboratories equipped with sophisticated instruments, and highly skilled personnel.

Bedside diagnostics using simplified, compact, versatile and efficient tools providing analysis results within a few minutes will therefore be a boon for many critically ill patients. In this project, we propose to develop two-in-one attenuated total reflection (ATR)/Raman chips that are compact, mass-producible, affordable, reliable, user-friendly and highly sensitive. The availability of such chips will enable the full potential and complementary nature of mid-IR molecular fingerprint and Raman spectroscopies to be exploited for bedside point-of-care diagnosis of critically ill patients who require rapid therapeutic decisions, meeting the ASSURED criteria set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

For example, provision of rapid diagnostic information will be invaluable for preterm infants (24-30 weeks gestation), for whom treatment decisions must be made as soon after birth as possible. Due to their lung immaturity, such infants are at high risk of suffering from neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome (nRDS), which has a high rates of mortality and morbidity with a major long-term economic burden on healthcare services. Using nRDS as an exemplar, we propose to develop a compact, versatile, rapid and easily operable bedside diagnostic tool for the next-generation bedside point-of-care to provide a predictive diagnostic test for nRDS to inform treatment options.

The diagnostic device platform proposed here combines the complementary capabilities of fingerprint Mid-IR and Raman spectroscopies, each of which has been shown independently to be powerful biodiagnostic tool for specific biomarkers. In addition, we will employ a unique signal enhancement strategy that will simultaneously benefit both IR and Raman spectroscopies and significantly enhance their sensitivities. This new photonic technology and the portable diagnostic device proposed will not only underpin next-generation biomedical diagnostic applications but will also have major impacts in environmental monitoring and sensing including water pollution monitoring and trace toxic gas sensing.

Planned Impact

We propose to develop optical devices that are simple and low-cost that are ideal for performing combined mid-infrared (mid-IR) and Raman spectroscopies providing complementary information to identify and quantify biomarkers in a clinical environment, for rapid bedside biomedical diagnostics. These chips will be capable of near-instantaneous disease detection to advance a healthy society with reduced medical costs.

This research will offer economic impacts by creating industrial growth through the realisation of novel photonic devices (one of the key enabling technologies) and will also make societal impact by the provision of new clinical devices for the bedside point-of-care diagnosis, benefiting clinicians and general public. The bedside diagnosis of critically ill patients will enable rapid therapeutic decisions, saving lives, reducing the economic burden on healthcare services and creating a resilient nation.

We will conduct roadshows and outreach programmes in schools and hospitals and demonstrate the potential benefits of these photonic devices developed in this project for the next-generation bedside point-of-care diagnostics.

Working in collaboration with SIME Diagnostics Ltd we are in a position to enhance the UK's already strong position in the medical diagnostics sensors market. As the technologies mature during the project, we will explore further routes to commercialisation as the possibility of low-cost, mass produced systems becomes clear. To enable this, the protection and exploitation of the results are important and at Southampton we are well supported for this by the University's Research and Innovation Services (RIS). RIS have expertise in IP protection, the identification of potential users of research results, licensing, business planning and spin-outs.

This programme will be of great value to the next generation of research scientists and it provides excellent opportunities for training PhD/MSc students and postdoctoral researchers in a highly multidisciplinary environment in a field with great practical potential, coupled with state-of-the-art technologies. They will interact with staff from multiple disciplines, and meetings of the team will foster cross-disciplinary engagement and an understanding of translation from fundamental science to practical application, providing an excellent foundation for the research leaders of the future.


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