The interface of genomics and electronic engineering research is an exciting new area which promises to yield imaginative approaches to the development of medical devices and diagnostics. DNA molecules have found use as combinatorial computers, proto-transistors and semi-conductors amongst other things. However, the potential for integrating together, on a single semiconductor device, biomolecule-based equivalents of electronics circuit elements is untapped at present.
The potential position of leadership which could be created for the UK with respect to exploitation of genomics-based technologies
The core scientific understanding and technology underlying this radical vision are being addressed through the Beacon Project being undertaken by Professor Peter Ghazal and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh. Four leading centres of expertise in biotechnology, electronic engineering, chemistry and physics have been brought together to develop a platform technology in genomic nanoprocessors.
Scottish Enterprise is funding an industrial PhD studentship to facilitate a collaboration with a Scottish microelectronics company.
* a radical new vision of future healthcare, known as ‘bio-intelligent medication’
* nano-scale devices administered in vivo to detect and prevent disease.
The team is investigating technology based upon the idea of using DNA molecules, anchored to a silicon substrate, which switch between two configurations in response to electronic and biochemical signals, in a way that mimics transistor-like behaviour. A key innovative feature of the project will be the integration of these devices within digital circuitry to provide on-chip intelligence (sensing, logic and read/write elements for example) for local data processing.
A core project patent covering fundamental aspects of the work has been submitted and will be published in Spring 2004.
Potential Applications for the hybrid ‘DNA on silicon’ processors
* Medical Devices
The long-term vision of the team is to apply this technology to biointelligent medication will ultimately be dependent upon the ability to eliminate the inorganic silicon substrate from the processors to leave devices which are purely bio-organic and can therefore be administered in vivo