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UPDATE: Motorola Wins $5M DARPA Grant to Develop Microfluidics


This article has been updated from a previous version.

NEW YORK, Feb 26 – Motorola Labs has been awarded a $5 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop its microfluidic Multi-Chip-Module genetic analysis sample preparation systems, Motorola said Monday. 

The company was one of 25 organizations to win grants in a proposal competition called "Bio-flips," which focused on projects for developing miniaturized analytical devices, said Piotr Grodzinski, the manager of Motorola’s Microfluidics Laboratory.

Motorola scientists will collaborate with Jed Harrison from the University of Alberta and Mark Hayes of Arizona State University to develop plastic microfluidic devices for DARPA.

Microfluidic devices, which pump minute amounts of fluid through networks of hair-thin channels to automate and miniaturize sample preparation steps, can be useful in military applications where a lab experiment needs to be small enough to fit on a soldier's wrist. They also can be used for sample preparation and detection of DNA and proteins.

A number of companies, from Motorola, Aclara Biosciences, and Caliper Technologies to small startups like BioMicro and Micronics, are developing microfluidic devices.

Unlike other microfluidic devices currently on the market, Motorola’s are being designed to connect many chips in an organized, standardized manner, just as electronics boards connect a number of semiconductor chips together, Grodzinski said. "Instead of one complicated device, we will have three or four devices with a single function, capable of integrating together so they will [be able to] to talk to each other."

These devices will be designed to tackle sample preparation. "Most of the current chips address the back-end solution, detection," Grodinsky told GenomeWeb. "We’re trying to build a system which will have sample preparation done on the chip, so you can then use a patient’s blood or saliva for detection."

Motorola Labs is working closely with Motorola’s BioChip division, which is integrating microfluidics and low-density microarrays to develop patient diagnostic devices for DNA samples. 

The researchers are using plastic for the microfluidics devices because it is cheap, disposable and biologically inert, Grodinsky said.

Motorola also expects its microfluidics devices to have applications in the environmental, agricultural, animal science, and public safety arenas. The company is also planning to use microfluidic technology for miniature fuel cells to power portable electronics. 

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