Skip to main content

Event Details

  • Monday, February 25, 2019
  • 09:15 - 10:00

Optical Biosensors and Systems Integration: Past, Present and Future

Optical biosensors rely on a biological or biomimetic molecule to accomplish a molecular recognition event, generate an optical signal when that recognition event occurs, and measure the signal with a photonic device. Within that definition, there is a broad spectrum of means for realizing each of the three main steps. The most frequently used recognition molecules include antibodies, enzymes, aptamers, oligonucleotides and synthetic peptides, but assemblies of molecules as complex as living cells are also used. Methods for transducing the recognition event into an optical signal can employ methods as simple as measuring a change in optical density to multicomponent amplification cascades and molecular machines. Finally, there must be a portable method for measuring the optical signal; your eye might be considered a portable readout device, but a large laboratory microscope is not. When creating a biosensor, all three parts of the system must work in concert and be appropriate for the user’s needs. Biosensor systems integration is key to the design of a practical system. The information provided must be at the level of sensitivity, specificity, quantitative accuracy and level of complexity on which a decision can be based. I will provide examples of several biosensors used outside the laboratory and how variables such as reagent stabilization, resistance to fouling, automation, energy use, system footprint, and user needs were incorporated into the design. Since the biosensors just described were commercialized, the biosensor community has explored new approaches for molecular recognition and exciting technologies for signal measurement, many of which will be addressed in detail by the other speakers in this conference. Some of the most exciting of these advances include single molecule measurements, visually detectable amplified color schemes, automation of sample processing using microfluidic systems, simplified separations and sample transport using paper, and signal readout using cell phone optics. Examples from my collaborations will be briefly introduced: e.g. programmable paper pumps and continuously operating in vivo sensors. Opportunities for the future are limited only by the imagination. The use of small robotics and telecommunications enable consortium measurements across extended areas or populations. Inexpensive and miniaturized electronics and optics enable the use of biosensors for environmental and agricultural applications. Simplified components and well defined criteria for materials and recognition molecules enable low cost applications for single-use point-of-care and continuous-use wearable diagnostic devices for both human and animal health.