New tools have enabled some of the most important advances in biology and medicine. We are at the threshold of an exciting new technological era in which deciphering deep levels of biological complexity will be routine. It will become possible to tackle biological and medical problems at what were once thought to be unimaginably large hierarchical scales, all the while observing and coordinating unprecedented levels of detail down to the molecular scale. And it is plausible that this will all be possible in real time ultimately providing a continuous window into the evolving systems biology of organisms. This effort seeks to hasten the realization of this vision by leveraging recent advances nanosystems technology, an approach that coordinates vast numbers of individual nanodevices into a coherent whole with emergent functionality. The goal is development of biomedical tools that simultaneously enable new physical windows of observation, while amassing the requisite sophistication to address complex problems. Four initial projects are proposed from a realm of many: (i) fast typing of individual bacteria without culturing;(ii) obtaining physiological fingerprints from exhaled breath; (iii) using cell mechanics and motility as a new tool in cancer research;and (iv) following the metabolism of individual cells to provide early screening of libraries of therapeutic drug candidates. Each example illustrates how existing nanosystems technology can be leveraged to realize new biomedical tools. Each harnesses the complementarity of scale between individual, unit nanosensors and their targets. Using the well-validated approach of state-of-the-art microelectronic foundry production, a realistic plan is outlined for producing robust tools in sufficient quantities to enable biological and medical research continuity. This research and production paradigm will enable groundbreaking, collaborative systems research in biomedical sciences though realization of tools capable of addressing unprecedented levels of biological complexity.

Public Health Relevance

Microelectronics technology can be leveraged to create chips capable of providing point-of-care diagnostics, and new tools for biomedical research. This work seeks to apply this paradigm to the creation of: systems enabling immediate bacterial identification;new tools for cancer research;less-costly ways to screen potential drug candidates;and non-invasive health and disease diagnostics through breath-based detection.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (NDPA) (DP1)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZGM1-NDPA-B (01))
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Lewis, Catherine D
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California Institute of Technology
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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