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I-Corps: Commercialization of a Nanoparticle Concentration Apparatus

Cheng, Xuanhong
Lehigh University
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This I-Corps team presents a microdevice for continuous nanoparticle concentration. Motivation to create such a device stems from a well-recognized challenge of preparing bionanoparticle samples at resource limited settings. Bionanoparticles, such as viruses, liposomes and exosomes are frequently processed for clinical diagnostics, surveillance of biological weapons and pandemic pathogens, drug and food safety, as well as manufacturing of medicines, but they usually are present only in very dilute suspensions. While the conventional methods, such as high-speed centrifugation and membrane ultrafiltration, are effective for concentrating biological nanoparticles, these batch processes often have variable recovery, dependent on the sample composition, operators' skills and the separation mechanism. These conventional methods also require bulky instruments, special skills and long processing time. The recently popularized concentration approach using magnetic beads offers an advantage of low infrastructure requirement, but most biological species require affinity labeling to impose sufficient magnetism, and the labeling efficiency is poor when the target concentration is low and when inhibiting or competitive species are present. The microdevice presented by this team addresses above challenges through continuous concentration of bionanoparticles in a portable device with simple operation and without the need of labeling. It departs from expensive devices and immobile processes that are currently practiced in laboratories, and is an enabling technology for point-of-care bionanoparticle analysis. Such a device is expected to impact many fields, such as the diagnostic industry for the preparation of virus and exosome samples, and the pharmaceutical industry for nanomedicine production.

The microfluidic device presented here employs a temperature gradient and a carefully engineered convection to drive directional motion of nanoparticles. By flowing a dilute nanoparticle sample through a micro-fabricated fluid channel, the particles migrate sideways along the axial flow, based on their intrinsic physical properties, and the concentrate species are retrieved from a strategically placed outlet. With a device footprint no bigger than a business card and all accessories miniaturizable to palm-size, this device allows bionanoparticle concentration outside of sophisticated laboratories with small power consumption. The I-Corp team intends to perform market analysis and explore commercialization potential for the nanoparticle concentrator. Through direct conversation with people at different industrial sectors, key specifications needed for practice will be identified, which will guide future development of device towards prioritized markets and customers. The I-Corps program will also equip the entrepreneurial lead and the principal investigator with business skills and prepare them for technology translation.

Funding Source
United States Nat'l. Science Fndn.
Project source
View this project
Project number
Bacterial Pathogens
Chemical Contaminants