Increasingly more powerful electronics technology is making possible innovative medical products for a range of uses from diagnostics to treatment. What underpins that progress are continuing advances in the transistors, sensors, and related microsystems at the heart of electronics equipment.

In keeping with the expansion of electronics technology into medical applications, this year the world’s leading technology conference for electronic devices will feature a special emphasis on bio-electronics.

The annual IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) is being held in Washington, D.C. from Dec. 9 – 11, and a special focus session of invited presentations will take place on Monday, Dec. 9 beginning at 1:30 p.m. to highlight new developments in sensors and microelectromechanical microsystems for biomedical applications (BioMEMS). BioMEMS is a rapidly growing area and the 2013 IEDM provides a unique opportunity for researchers from different disciplines to interact and discuss new device concepts in the areas of bio-sensors, bioelectronics, implantable devices. Presentations will cover topics including genome sequencing, novel biosensors and laboratory-on-a-chip technology, among others.

For example, in The Development of High-Speed and Semiconductor-Based DNA Sequencing: Neanderthal, Moore, and You, genome sequencing pioneer Jonathan Rothberg will describe a novel sensor array for massively parallel DNA sequencing. Rothberg will discuss how this will enable the emerging field of personalized medicine based on individual genome sequencing, which requires deploying low-cost, high-quality, mass-manufactured sequencing devices at a global population scale.

Another presentation, CMOS Biosensor Devices and Applications, by Mark Reed from Yale University will outline how the detection of extremely low concentrations of small molecules like proteins, DNA, and biomarkers has tremendous applications for translational medicine and fundamental studies. He will discuss the emerging field of integrated silicon nanowire transistors for the direct, label-free detection of biomolecules with unprecedented sensitivity and scalability.

A third talk, Labs-on-a-Chip and Nanosensors for Medical Applications and Life Sciences, by Albert van den Berg of the University of Twente in the Netherlands, will give insight into how recent developments in microfluidics technologies have enabled implementation of miniaturized laboratories, or “labs-on-a-chip”. He will show how they will play an important role in future medicine, both in point-of-care devices for drug or biomarker monitoring, as well as in early cancer diagnostic devices. He also will detail the development of a prefilled, ready-to-use capillary electrophoresis platform for measuring ions in blood, which can be used to monitor lithium in finger-prick blood of manic-depressive patients, measuring calcium in blood for prevention of milk fever, or measuring creatinine in blood or sodium in urine. These are among other devices and developments he will describe.

In another talk, 3-D Biomimetic Hair Sensors and Actuator, Professor Khalil Najafi of University of Michigan will discuss the advantages and features of hair-like sensors and actuators, a new class of biomimetic devices (i.e., devices which imitate nature). Najafi will describe recent advances in BioMEMS and will discuss several applications of hair-size, hair-like sensors including sensing of flow, temperature vibration, and fluidic actuation.

One of the world leading experts in flexible electronics, Professor Takao Someya of University of Tokyo presents a talk on “Ultraflexible Organic Devices for Biomedical Applications.” Someya describes extremely lightweight electronics whose presence cannot be perceived when worn, opening up a large number of exciting applications from wearable healthcare sensor systems to tough sensors for athletes.

Other talks of the session by researchers from University of Michigan (Professor Euisik Yoon) and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (Professor Guiducci) report on recent progress in neural probe technologies for chronic electrical recording and optical stimulation as well as digital approaches in electronic biochips.

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