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Micronics Applies Microfluidics to Battlefield Diagnostics in BioFlips-Funded Project

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Micronics, a privately held microfluidics company in Redmond, Wash., has been developing a microfluidics microcytometry chip in collaboration with Honeywell that could be used as a mobile diagnostic device on a field soldier’s wrist.

This three-year, $4 million project, for which the company received funding two years ago fromDARPA’s BioFlips program, centers around development of the company’s plastic microfluidics technology.

“Unlike others who have to use silicon or glass, our forté is that our technology allows us to use very flexible and cost-effective materials,” said Karen Hedine, Micronics’ vice president of business development. “We can imbed different things into these materials as needs arise.”

The microcytometry platform is designed to have a single central input channel, which is surrounded by diluent. What appears as two side channels in cross section is actually a 3-D ring surrounding the central channel. This technology is based on diffusion. “We have harnessed laminar flow at a micro-level,” said Hedine.

Honeywell is working on adapting it for reliable whole-blood flow cytometry, which could enable point-of-care diagnosis wherever the device has traveled. This device could also be adapted as a chemical and biological warfare warning system.

The BioFlips program, from which Micronics received the grant, seeks to develop prototypes that can perform “on-chip sample-to-answer biological fluid assays,” a BioFlips program statement says. The ultimate goal is to develop these assays for real-time monitoring and control of health parameters on the chip.

This focus is somewhat different than typical electrophoresis-based microfluidics technologies, which can require sample-prep steps. “For DoD applications, complete ‘sample-to-answer’ solutions in chip-scale devices are needed for robust, easy-to-use packages with minimum payload,” the BioFlips statement notes.

BioFlips has projects in four categories: integrated “BioFlips” systems, systems for on-chip transport and control of biofluids, technology that allows detection on plastic substrates, and integration components as well as subsystems.

More information about BioFlips can be found at www.darpa.mil/ mto/bioflips.

— MMJ

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