I recently had the opportunity to survey the medical electronics market. I was quite surprised by the some recent developments in this area so I thought it would be interesting to capture highlights in this short article.┬áI was most impressed by some of the integration of biomedical/biochemical microanalytics with the well-established semiconductor structures.
A major focus area is that of DNA sequencinq. Roche and IBM have recently made the headlines, announcing a collaboration to develop a nanopore-based gene sequencing chip (see┬áhttp://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/32037.wss). Other companies, such as Ion Torrent, have also bet on leveraging the 1 Trillion semiconductor infrastructure with the announcement of a MEMS-like electrochemical nucleotide detection scheme for sequencing (see┬áhttp://www.iontorrent.com/).
Having a biochemical background, I've been waiting a long time for the integration of life science analytics with the high-tech silicon-based electronics industry. I think we are essentially there with the large focus on what is generally referred to as "lab-on-a-chip" (LOC), a subset of the rather generic System-On-A-Chip (SOC). Large research institutes like IMEC (see┬áhttp://www2.imec.be/content/user/File/Leaflets/HPP2010_leaflet_labonchip.pdf), as well as established commercial players like IBM and ST Micro are investing on a large scale. These efforts marry well with other activities performed under the "wearable electronics" umbrella.
Miniaturization through integration...drives to lower costs
The cost of sequencing the human genome has become a major indicator of LOC evolution. From $10,000 to a $1000 in phase 1 and phase 2, LOC is pegged to bring the costs down to $100, a price point this will drive sequencers out of the research lab and into clinics. A┬ásignificant┬áturning point in the overall ┬áspread of the technology.
The global biochip market is rapidly approaching 3B. Growth rates in the double-digit are forecasted. (see┬áhttp://www.bccresearch.com/report/BIO049C.html). The LOC piece is expected to surpass 1B in the next few years.
Without going into great details in this short article, we can summarize the general LOC approach as being the poster child in nanotechnology and MEMS manufacturing. This will be further explored in future articles.
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