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“Femtosecond Laser Microfabrication Technologies for the Development of Polymer Labs-on-Chips (LoCs) for Advanced and Minimally Invasive Diagnostics” aims to develop a new microfabrication platform for the production of integrated polymer LoC devices for DNA extraction from biological samples. LoCs are microsystems capable of handling small volumes of liquids. They have enormous potential for application within various fields of life sciences and chemistry and have therefore gained the interest of many companies that produce micro/nanodevices.
The most interesting applications include Point-Of-Care Tests (POCTs), fully integrated portable microfluidic devices that allow diagnostic tests to be performed at the site of patient care (outpatient clinics, home), giving the results in just a few minutes after taking a small sample of biological material (blood, tissue, etc.), with no specific professional knowledge or skills needed to perform them. The growing demand for miniaturized devices to reduce costs and the amount of sample needed while providing perfect integrability and portability of the analytical systems, pushes the search of new rapid prototyping technologies, such as femtosecond laser (FS) technology, which may overcome the current limitations of 3D printing and/or photolithography. This study aims to contribute to the development and deployment of LoCs through the following three key activities:
- use of low-cost polymers for their manufacturing;
- demonstration of a new rapid prototyping platform based on femtosecond laser (FS) technology;
- development of chips for the extraction and purification of DNA from biological samples to be integrated with the analysis phase.
The research project was funded by the NOP Research and Innovation 2014-2020 within the Action Innovative Industrial Doctorates, Cycle XXXII – Academic Year 2016-2017. For the implementation of this initiative, the University of Bari received a budget of 84.104,24 euro and established a three-year scholarship within the Department of Physics.
Impact on the Territory
The project falls within the “Smart Factory” and “Health and Quality of Life” thematic areas and addresses the growing demand in the field of miniaturized and portable systems for minimally invasive medical diagnostics, a fast growing sector in terms of technology and applications.
The world’s leading biotechnology companies have already established fruitful collaborations with universities, research centres and technology companies to bridge the gap between higher education and the labour market in such a specialized and multidisciplinary sector. Training a versatile figure will provide companies in the sector with the energy and skills they need in an extremely competitive and changing landscape. This will result in a further boost not only for fast growing sectors (pharmaceuticals, genomics, epigenetics), but also for those that are still struggling to grow, such as personalized medicine.
The project includes a 12-month placement at STMicroelectronics Srl, a multinational semiconductor company operating in all sectors of traditional electronics and in the biotechnology sector, and a 6-month placement at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow (UK).
Further Information (in Italian):
Università di Bari, Dipartimento di Fisica – Pagina dedicata ai dottorati finanziati dal PON Ricerca e Innovazione