Microfluidic screening tool lessens drug development cycle

Researchers from A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics (IME; Singapore) have developed a lateral, silicon-based drug screening tool in the form of a microfluidic chip that can simultaneously capture 12 individual cells, yielding 12 times higher throughput than conventional patch clamping. When tested with two different anti-diabetic drugs, corresponding electrophysiological readings could be determined by the device, showing its potential for multiple drug screening. With automation, the proposed device can dramatically shorten drug development cycle for rapid screening of ion-channel drug candidates.

IME’s silicon-based device consists of a silicon substrate with 1,536 inlets. The substrate holds the cell into position, followed by the application of suction through the side channels to form a tight seal for electrical measurement. The device holds promise for use by pharmaceutical and biotech companies for drug screening, and by academic researchers for mechanistic studies.

“The realization of our device using silicon as the primary material offers cost advantage over existing glass-based planar chip design, given silicon’s amenability for mass fabrication by standard processes," says Dr. Tushar Bansal, the IME scientist leading the work. "We are currently working with our industry counterparts to take this project to the next level.”

Professor Dim-Lee Kwong, Executive Director of IME, said, “The pre-clinical drug screening process is an arduous one, which IME hopes to address through this project. Our multidisciplinary efforts to tackle the throughput and cost issues will translate to faster access to new and more affordable drugs when they hit the market.”

The worldwide ion channel drug market is estimated to be worth $12 billion USD.

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Posted by Lee Mather

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