6 Microfluidic Researchers You Should Follow
Microfluidic devices are finding their way into a growing range of applications, with the market expected to reach USD 8.78 billion by 2021. Behind this growth are a dedicated community of researchers, developing the next microfabrication methods and improving the analytical capabilities of this versatile technology.
Here we take a look at 6 researchers whose contributions have helped (and are continuing to help) drive the field forward.
1. George Whitesides – Harvard University
A pioneer of microfabrication, Professor Whitesides helped to revolutionize the field with the introduction of Poly-di-methyl-siloxane (PDMS) based microfluidics, which brought advantages such as lower costs and easier molding. As part of ongoing efforts to democratize diagnostics, the Whitesides group has also demonstrated the use of paper and threads as effective materials for cheap microfluidic-based diagnostic devices. Recent efforts have focused on improving the versatility of such devices through the integration of electrodes and creation of electrical textile valves.
2. Aaron Wheeler – University of Toronto
Winner of the 2017 “Pioneers of Miniaturization” Lectureship, Professor Wheeler’s work centres around digital microfluidics (DMF) and its applications in areas such as cell culture and clinical analysis. A recently published method of pre-concentration, P-CLIP, could help to overcome some of the challenges microfluidic researchers face when trying to detect low concentration target analytes in small sample volumes, leading to improvements in a wide range of assays, such as those used to diagnose infectious diseases.
3. Donald E. Ingber – Harvard University
As founding Director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Professor Ingber has spurred the development of many bioinspired technologies, including human organs-on-chips, which were named as one of the top 10 emerging technologies of 2016 by The World Economic Forum. Since the creation of the first lung-on-a-chip in 2010, other groups have realized the potential on-chip technology can offer drug discovery and personalized medicine. The development of a plethora of other mini-organs on chips has followed, including a gut-on-a-chip capable of modelling enterovirus infection. With the goal of overcoming some of the issues of using PDMS for organ chips, such as absorption of hydrophobic compounds, Professor Ingber recently demonstrated the advantages that styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene (SEBS) elastomers can offer.
4. Chwee Teck Lim – National University of Singapore
Professor Lim has authored more than 330 peer-reviewed journal papers, co-founded 6 companies, and received with his team more than 70 research awards. His interests lie in developing mechanobiologically inspired microfluidic platforms which can be used for disease diagnosis and detection, including cancer. One recent example is a microfluidic biochip which can isolate single circulating tumour cells and help deliver personalized medicine for non-small cell lung cancer patients.
5. Amy Herr – UC Berkeley
As a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator, Professor Herr is working to develop bioinstrumentation to analyze biological complexity. In particular, she is creating microfluidic devices for single-cell proteomics, including a recently published microfluidic assay, rare-cell scWB, which enables protein profiling of individual circulating tumor cells. This type of analysis can complement transcriptomic and genomic data, to provide additional insights into a patient’s cancer and treatment response.
6. Adam Woolley – Brigham Young University
Recipient of the 2007 Award for Young Investigators in Separation Science, Professor Woolley and his research group are developing miniaturization tools to analyze clinically relevant biomolecules, such as those associated with bacterial blood infections or preterm birth. His group has also recently been the first to 3D-print a viable microfluidic device, which could help to dramatically reduce the cost and time of producing labs-on-chips.
This is just a small selection of the many great minds involved, if you think we have missed anyone we’d love to hear from you.