ENG/EFRI FY 2012 Awards Announcement

Flexible Bioelectronics Systems (BioFlex) Awards

The Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) office awarded 15 grants in FY 2012, including the following four on the topic of Flexible Bioelectronics Systems (BioFlex):

Screening for the subtle signs of cancer
The project “Miniature, low-cost fiber-optics technology for measurement of tissue structure at sub-diffractional length scales: a platform for cancer screening” (1240416) will be led by Vadim Backman of Northwestern University, in collaboration with Jeremy Rogers of Northwestern University, Roy Hemant of American BioOptics, LLC, and Allen Taflove of Northwestern University.

Existing techniques for cancer detection require the examination of already formed cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions through interventional procedures (such as colonoscopy) and are invasive, expensive, and not always sensitive enough to find lesions at a curable stage; for these reasons, population screening does not exist for the majority of cancers. To address these issues, this research team will seek new understanding of the links between tissue’s nanoscale-level structure and its optical properties. The project will focus on a novel biophotonics technology involving a miniature flexible fiber-optic probe to detect cancerous changes in tissue. To understand the potential clinical impact of the technology, pilot studies for the detection of lung, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers will be conducted. Ultimately, the project aims to enable minimally or non-invasive population screening for major cancers while being comfortable to patients, improving diagnostic accuracy, and reducing health care costs.

Smart wound dressing
The project “EFRI-BioFLEX: Tissue Engineered Flexible Sensors, Actuators and Electronics for Chronic Wound Management” (1240443) will be led by Ali Khademhosseini of the Brigham and Women's Hospital, in collaboration with Mehmet Dokmeci of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Sameer Sonkusale of Tufts University, and Babak Ziaie of Purdue University.

This EFRI project aims to revolutionize chronic wound treatment by developing a smart dressing platform. The smart dressing will consist of a flexible and conformable platform embedded with microelectronics and an array of physical, chemical, and biological modules capable of sensing (physical and chemical) and active intervention (biological, chemical, and physical) in the wound microenvironment. The new platform will be of particular benefit to the growing elderly population, returning war veterans exposed to serious burns, injured athletes, and diabetics with poor healing response. The technologies developed during this effort will also impact other applications where a close integration of electronics and targeted drug delivery with living tissue is necessary in order to achieve favorable therapeutic and rehabilitative outcomes.

Safely absorbable electronics
The project “EFRI BioFlex: Flexible Resorbable Organic and Nanomaterial Therapeutic Systems (FRONTS)” (1240380) will be led by Michel Maharbiz of the University of California-Berkeley, in collaboration with Ana Arias and Vivek Subramanian of the University of California-Berkeley, and Michael Harrison and Roy Shuvo of the University of California-San Francisco.

When implanting therapeutic electronics within the body, one concern is how to remove them after the therapy is complete. Current electronic therapies have been limited to devices that can be safely and easily removed from patient, because gradual degradation of the electrical components could introduce toxic materials into the body. To advance wound healing, the investigators aim to design, develop, and characterize novel flexible systems – constructed with nanomaterials, devices, interconnects, electrodes, and batteries – that can be safely absorbed by the body. These systems will provide high-resolution, in-body mapping of the wound area in a minimally invasive way, providing significant knowledge and fundamental understanding of cell recovery in a number of medical procedures. This research effort aims to create a technology that will enable the realization of sophisticated in-body therapeutic systems that leverage electrical stimulation to improve healing.

Rapid ID of toxins and bacteria
The project “EFRI-BioFlex: Rapid Identification of Blood, Urine, and Saliva Toxins and Bacterial Infections with a SERS/LSS Flexible System” (1240410) will be led by Lev Perelman, in collaboration with Gary Horowiz, Irving Itzkan, Le Qiu, and Edward Vitkan, all of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Both toxin poisoning and bacterial infection cause serious health problems in which patient conditions are highly correlated with the speed of identifying the offending agent. To quickly detect and identify toxins and bacteria in blood, urine, and saliva, this project seeks to create a novel, hybrid sensing system. The system will combine the unique sensitivities of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy for toxin detection and light-scattering spectroscopy for bacterial detection in a single device in order to eliminate the need for multiple and time-consuming diagnostic tests. Spectra will be compared to comprehensive libraries of toxin and bacteria spectra for identification, and refined diagnostic algorithms will provide accurate measures of concentration. The researchers will test and optimize the system in both laboratory and clinical settings. The team anticipates that having such rapid, reliable diagnostic capabilities in an inexpensive, portable system could impact both patient health and health-care delivery.

Summaries of the EFRI projects on Origami Design for Integration of Self-assembling Systems for Engineering Innovation (ODISSEI)

Summaries of the EFRI projects on Photosynthetic Biorefineries (PSBR)

- Cecile J. Gonzalez, NSF, cjgonzal@nsf.gov -