Friday, April 20, 2007

Quantum Logic Devices – Nanotechnology

The field of Nanotechnology has received a substantial amount of investment over the past five years. It offers the promise of better materials, better tests, and better results. In looking at this space an interesting company to watch is Quantum Logic Devices which developed a novel nanotechnology-based technique called Single Electron Transistors (SET) which combine silicon with biology to perform ultra-sensitive chemical detection. Traditional microarrays require fluorescent dyes to attach to the target chemical which are then read by optical devices that require large numbers of molecules to be present to be seen.

QLD’s SET system consists of a disposable assay cartridge and an electronic data capture device. The test cartridge is a self-contained bioassay platform containing all the reagents except the sample. The targets are captured and recorded by QLD's nanoelectronic device arrays.

Their founder Dr. Louis Brousseau recently wrote a paper for the American Chemical Society in which he describes proof of concept experiments that demonstrate that hybrid formation of 36-base sequences of DNA can be detected electronically with a single electron transistor. The experiment was able to detect target samples at concentrations down to femtomolar which equates to only 12,000 DNA molecules per 20 microliter drop.

They built a preamp that connects a data acquisition board to the SET device from which they read the data. Once collected, they use LabVIEW to crunch the data. An increasingly familiar theme among biotech companies is the large volume of data their application generates. An application easily reaches into the gigabytes because of the number of data points collected and then the even larger number of data points calculated.

As an aside, there doesn’t appear to be a leader technical data management in the biotech area. Most use NIH or NSF funding to create their own tools. Since this is done primarily in the academic area there’s little support (it’s mostly shareware) and since no one is out promoting or marketing the tool to others it doesn’t get very far from the lab that created it. What’s needed is a general purpose tool that can handle any kind of data. In the life science field there’s quite a range including gene sequencing, to gene expression, and protein, as well as biological data types.

Emerging technologies take time to mature. It’s interesting to watch QLD as they mature theirs.

Best regards,
Hall T.

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