Development of a new biosensor platform for Point-Of-Care (POC) diagnostics

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Engineering


This PhD project aims to develop a new biosensor platform for Point-Of-Care (POC) diagnostics that enable sample in answer out devices for rapid nucleic acid test and molecular diagnostics. Both antigen-related immunoassays and PCR-related molecular diagnostic assays will be considered. Antigen-based immunoassays require more amount of protein biomarker than molecular diagnostics. Molecular diagnostics is rapidly growing with the increasing adoption of this technology in place of antigen testing by immunoassays. Molecular diagnostics also possess advantages such as high specificity which helps detect even minute amount of biomarkers. This is of crucial importance especially in early detection of infectious diseases, such as hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), tuberculosis, measles, dengue, Chagas, cholera, Sepsis and malaria.

The project is Inspired by the seminal work done and led by the academic PI Dr. Luigi G. Occhipinti, University of Cambridge, Electrical Engineering Division, on various biosensor technologies including e.g. DNA Label-free Biosensors (Science of Adv. Materials 2011), on graphene-based sensors (J. of Applied Physics 2013), on Molecular Diagnostic assays (US Pat. Appl. 2014/0038193), on water-gated organic transistors (Flex. Print. Electron. 2016, 1, 025005), and more recently, in collaboration with clinical research teams at the University of Cambridge, on quantitative analysis of biocompatibility (Adv. Biosys. 2017), and discovery of enzymatic activity in extracellular vesicles, with potential applications in new anti-cancer therapies having no or limited side effects such as liver toxicity (Nature Chem. Biology, 2017).

At the interface of biology, healthcare technology and bio-electronics, this project will open interesting new directions for ongoing academic research at the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with a strong industry team sponsoring the project, which is part of the global Sumitomo company.

The project will focus on developing a multiplex real-time quantitative PCR device as proof of concept demonstrator of a POC diagnostic assay for Infection Disease, and to adapt current fluorescence-based real-time detection method to an electrical, impedance-based, biosensor array for quantification of target DNA amplicons during the exponential phase of the RT-qPCR. He/She will receive full training in advanced nanofabrication, sensor design, fabrication and characterization, including some printed electronics techniques. In addition, training on point of care diagnostic platforms, including some clinical application and validation aspects will be done, as well as characterization and measurement of sensors will be provided. Working alongside other researchers and students, the candidate will integrate various sensor and diagnostic modules to demonstrate new platform capabilities.

The PhD project will also look at novel approaches that help overcome the limitations of conventional PCR end-point detection methods, and introduce emerging biosensor technologies as well as new platform materials and substrates, such as paper, to possibly replace optical readout detection methods with precise electrical readout, which provides opportunities for data processing, noise filtering and better extraction of quantitative information.

The main advantages of the proposed platform approach include: cost-effectiveness, biocompatibility, and environmental sustainability.

The PI group at University of Cambridge has strong collaborative linkages to leading global industrial and academic partners, the candidate will also have the opportunity to engage with industrial key players and showcase to potential future employers. This PhD is supported by Cambridge Display Technology Limited, part of Sumitomo Chemical group.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513180/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2023
2108855 Studentship EP/R513180/1 01/10/2018 28/02/2023 Ioannis Prattis