New biotechnologies are having a tremendous impact on clinicians’ efforts to meet the needs of patients and patients’ families. They include medicines and diagnostics manufactured using biotechnological processes, but also gene and cell therapies and tissue-engineered products. The majority of today’s innovative medicines—whether manufactured using biotechnological approaches or via chemical synthesis, as are traditional small-molecule medicines—and many diagnostic products are only available thanks to the application of modern biotechnology in their development and/or manufacturing processes.
CSEM has become increasingly active in the domain of biotech and the life sciences. We use our miniaturization, integration, and microengineering expertise to develop new devices, with a focus on components, tools, and systems for toxicology and pharmacology, and on diagnostics and assays.
The toxicological testing of chemicals and cosmetics and the efficacy tests used in the development of new pharmaceuticals all require in vitro, 3-D microenvironments that correspond closely to living tissues. CSEM is developing more authentic, physiologically relevant microenvironments, including co-culture systems, structured surfaces, connected cultures, mechanical stimulation of bone and muscle cells, and cell culture supports. We’re also developing new analytical tools to study the function of living cells and understand how they are affected by toxins.
We’re looking closely at the development of microfluidics devices that can finely control fluids in both time and space. Such control enables the precise production of biocompatible tools such as microbeads for cell culture in bioreactors and can be adjusted to handle various polymers and address a variety of needs. Besides being able to mimic certain biological functions, we also need to be able to monitor biological parameters on different scales. Electrochemical sensors can be adapted to fit these requirements.
Reliable handling and pre-treatment of samples and reagents is a key requirement in applications such as drug development, diagnostics, and food and water quality monitoring. The trend toward smaller volumes and highly integrated sample pre-treatment calls for new approaches to dealing with the highly precise dosing of liquids and the integration of elements for filtration or the concentration of analytes.