2016 President's Report - page 10-11

President’s Report
Clarkson University 11
President’s Report
From Basic Research to Commercial Application
Developing Affordable, Easy-to-Use Biosensors
by Shelia Yong
rofessor Silvana Andreescu and her research group study bioactive nanostructures, which
consist of simple chemical and biological molecules that are assembled in precise proportions
to form specific structures.
“Bioactive nanostructures are needed in a wide range of applications, especially in medical
diagnostics and in environmental and food monitoring,” she says. The use of bioactive nanostructures
is prevalent in the medical field, where they serve as building blocks for making implantable
microdevices, such as those used to deliver drugs to specific organs in the patient’s body.
An expert in biosensing technology, Andreescu designs biosensors to perform specific functions
by manipulating the components within the bioactive nanostructures. Examples of biosensing
devices include wearable biosensors, functional contact lenses, environmental filters, smart screens,
and intelligent packaging. Depending on their specific functions, these devices allow their users to
monitor personal physiological biomarkers such as blood pressure levels, or external conditions such
as exposure to environmental pollutants.
Andreescu has already patented
several of her biosensor prototypes,
including smart labels for food
packaging to indicate food quality
and safety. Smart food labels have
been available for a few years now. For
example, a freshness sensor label can be
applied on meat and poultry products.
The ink color on the label will change according to the condition of the meat, turning from orange to
gray when the meat is no longer fresh.
But Andreescu’s smart label prototypes are far more sophisticated — one can authenticate various
food products and detect antioxidant levels, while another can measure exposure to bisphenol A (BPA).
Manufacturing Affordable, Portable, Easy-to-Use Biosensors
Now with funding from the National Science Foundation, Andreescu is developing a process for
the large-scale manufacturing of functional bioactive nanostructures on flexible and inexpensive
substrates, such as paper and plastic, using two- and three-dimensional printing techniques.
This will enable the development of a new class of biosensing devices that are easy to use,
portable and inexpensive.
“We are also designing our devices to be convenient to use, so that everything needed for
analysis is confined within the device body," “she explains. The device body consists of a bioactive
nanostructure interface, together with either an electronic circuit or a spectral-based analysis system.
Upon exposure to the external environment, the circuit or analysis system can detect changes
occurring to the nanomaterials and transmit such changes as output signals.
One challenge Andreescu faces is the need to maintain the functional properties and structural
integrity of the nanoparticles within the device body.
“Most of the work that we do focuses on stabilizing the biological molecules, which are
inherently sensitive to the environment,” she explains. A critical part of this work involves
engineering a “cage” that can protect the biomolecules and maintain their activity under actual
environmental conditions.
Andreescu is also taking the next step toward commercialization.
“There are many exciting applications of this technology, and we can tailor our device designs
to address a specific need or market. My plan is to incorporate bioactive materials in commercial
products and devices, and pursue real-world applications in the small, portable device market.”
Silvana Andreescu • Professor and Egon Matijevic´ Chair,
Department of Chemistry & Biomolecular Science
This research will enable the development of a new class of
biosensing devices that are easy to use, portable and inexpensive.
Research funding received
by Prof. Andreescu over
the last seven years.
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