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Imec Awarded a Grant from NASA to Advance Space Health Diagnostics

Daniel Nenni

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miDiagnostics’ disposable blood testing device to be evaluated by imec for use in zero gravity environments​

Leuven (BELGIUM) and Kissimmee (FLORIDA), Nov. 19 2019 – Today, imec, a world-leading research and innovation hub in nano-electronics and digital technologies announced it has received NASA funding to test a technology for monitoring astronauts’ health status under zero gravity conditions using a first-of-its-kind disposable diagnostic device developed by imec’s spin-off, miDiagnostics. Imec will design test parameters and perform experiments in different gravity scenarios using one of miDiagnostics’ devices that is built around a silicon-based nanofluidic processor that performs a series of blood sample manipulations yielding a cell blood count with fast turnaround time.

“Human exploration into deep space requires the development of medical devices and diagnostics of small mass, volume and power requirements, designed for a more autonomous practice of medicine,” said Susana B. Zanello, Ph.D., research and development manager at imec’s design center in Kissimmee (Florida) and principal investigator on the project. Responding to the need for easily deployable medical devices with minimal instrumentation, miDiagnostics is developing a near-patient diagnostic platform, based on a nanofluidic processor embedded in a single-use, low-cost, test card.

Presently, miDiagnostics has developed a research prototype that can perform a complete cell blood count (CBC) from only drops of blood. In other configurations, the same platform will enable accurate and instantaneous point-of-need diagnostics for a suite of cellular, biochemical and molecular tests. “The device is currently in development for standard earth-based conditions, said Peter Peumans, VP life sciences technologies at imec and CTO of miDiagnostics. “But it should also function in gravity-independent environments, as it relies solely on capillary forces.”

Imec will test the device in parabolic flight, which offers different gravitational loads. This specific environment will allow testing of the functionality of the nanofluidic system and its independence from gravity—from sample capture at the inlet port to its migration within the nanofluidic channel network. “While the macroscopic part of this process is relatively straightforward to assess, imec intends to look inside the device to validate the correct sequence of events and the correct functioning of the subcomponents, as well as its robustness,” explained Veerle Reumers, Ph.D, research and development manager at imec’s design center in Kissimmee (Florida) and co-investigator on the study.

“This technology demonstration, facilitated by the Flight Opportunities program, aims to address NASA’s need for technologies that support human exploration and further commercial activity both in Earth orbit and in cislunar space and beyond,” stated Dr Zanello.

“We are very excited that our technology has been selected by imec to demonstrate its operation during parabolic flights, and is a good example of how imec and miDiagnostics are working together to bring diagnostics to the most remote places”, said Nicolas Vergauwe, CEO of miDiagnostics.

miDiagnostics’ research prototype device that can perform a complete blood cell could from only drops of blood. This prototype device is for research use only, not for in diagnostic procedures.
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About imec
Imec is a world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies. The combination of our widely acclaimed leadership in microchip technology and profound software and ICT expertise is what makes us unique. By leveraging our world-class infrastructure and local and global ecosystem of partners across a multitude of industries, we create groundbreaking innovation in application domains such as healthcare, smart cities and mobility, logistics and manufacturing, energy and education.

As a trusted partner for companies, start-ups and universities we bring together more than 4,000 brilliant minds from over 97 nationalities. Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium and has distributed R&D groups at a number of Flemish universities, in the Netherlands, Taiwan, USA, and offices in China, India and Japan. In 2018, imec's revenue (P&L) totaled 583 million euro. Further information on imec can be found at www.imec-int.com.

Imec is a registered trademark for the activities of IMEC International (a legal entity set up under Belgian law as a "stichting van openbaar nut”), imec Belgium (IMEC vzw supported by the Government of Flanders), imec the Netherlands (Stichting IMEC Nederland, part of Holst Centre which is supported by the Dutch Government), imec Taiwan (IMEC Taiwan Co.), imec China (IMEC Microelectronics (Shanghai) Co. Ltd.), imec India (Imec India Private Limited) and imec Florida (IMEC USA nanoelectronics design center).

About miDiagnostics
miDiagnostics is developing a new generation of disposable tests that require only drops of blood
and allow detection of cells, proteins, nucleic acids, and/or small molecules. Its core technology is a
novel silicon-based nanofluidic processor that automatically processes the blood sample without the
need of pumps or valves. There is no need for complex and costly instrumentation enabling medical
decisions to be taken at the point of need or remote areas with a high level of comfort to both
patients and caregivers.

miDiagnostics was founded in 2015 as a spin-off from imec (Leuven, Belgium), and a research collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA), America’s first research university and medical school and home of over 30 Nobel Prize laureates. Following a Series A round of €60 million, led by Alychlo, Pamica and PMV, miDiagnostics was incorporated to further build on the extensive research, and scientific and clinical expertise of these two institute
 
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