University of Twente awarded €2.4m
grant for research into point-of-care diagnostics
21 August 2008
The University of Twente in the Netherlands has been awarded a grant
of €2.4 million euros from the
European Research Council for its eLab4Life project that will research
lab-on-a-chip systems for point-of-care diagnostics.
Lab-on-a-chip systems will bring the diagnostics laboratory to the
patient. A blood or other sample will no longer have to go to the
laboratory and the patient and doctor will no longer have to wait for
the result to be returned.
Many groups around the world are trying to develop lab-on-a-chip
systems, but so far there has been little progress beyond the
According to Prof. Albert van den Berg, who leads the University of
Twente’s BIOS lab-on-a-chip group, a real breakthrough can be expected
from making special nanoscale structures for generating electrical
fields that can be used to study individual cells or molecules. “So far
a lot of experiments have been carried out with optical techniques that
are sometimes difficult to integrate in a complete system. The new
nanostructures we envisage will make it possible for us to miniaturize
systems even further and to develop commercially-feasible equipment,” he
Amongst other things, Prof. van den Berg anticipates that this research will provide
opportunities for developing extremely sensitive chips that can detect
biomarkers for cancer at a very early stage, and thus enable better
treatment. He also wants to study cell growth on the
new chips. The advantage of miniaturization here is that the environment
in which the cell grows can be controlled very precisely.
This precision is a great advantage for the development of new
medicines too: the researchers want, for example, to allow two types of
cells to fuse on a chip to form new cells that will produce medicines.
Professor Van den Berg’s group, a unit of the MESA+ Institute for
Nanotechnology, has built up a global reputation in this field. A chip
has, for instance, already been developed that gives point-of-care
diagnostics for people who use the medicine lithium. The spin-off
enterprise MediMate will be launching this development on the market in
the near future.
In the eLab4Life project the group will be working together with
Prof. Jurriaan Huskens' Molecular Nanofabrication group and Prof.
Clemens van Blitterswijk’s Tissue Regeneration group.
The European Research Council’s Advanced Grants are European
subsidies for research that opens up new horizons. One hundred and five
of almost a thousand applications in the field of Physical Sciences and
Engineering have been awarded one of these grants.