Computer chip for point-of-care diagnosis

Lab on a chip is smaller than a penny.

Kaushik Sengupta and his team are developing a computer chip-based diagnostic system, which is smaller than a penny but contains hundreds of different sensors for simultaneous detection of disease-causing agents.

Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Kaushik Sengupta and his team are developing a computer chip-based diagnostic system, which rests comfortably on a fingertip but contains hundreds of different sensors for simultaneous detection of disease-causing agents. The eventual goal is to use the chip in a handheld, portable diagnostic device that could be deployed in health clinics around the globe, especially in resource-limited settings.

The chip detects and measures the presence of DNA or proteins to help diagnose health conditions. Most existing methods for detecting these agents involve shining light on fluorescent labels attached to the DNA or protein and reading a resulting signal. However, in many types of tests, the signal is so weak that complex optical equipment is necessary to read the signal.

To perform this analysis using a simple handheld device, Sengupta is co-opting silicon chip technology similar to that found in personal computers and mobile phones. “This is a great technology for handheld medical diagnostic devices because it allows us integrate extremely complex systems in a single chip at very low cost. The vision is to unleash Moore’s law in diagnostics,” said Sengupta, referring to Intel co-founder Gordon Moore’s observation that processing power in computer chips has increased rapidly over the years.

The team starts with highly sensitive light-detecting components, or photodetectors, that are already ubiquitous in smartphone cameras, then adds new optical processor capabilities to the chip. The researchers found a way to re-wire the architecture of the chip so that in addition to carrying electrical information necessary for image processing, the chip also interacts with the incoming photons from the fluorescent light, and can block them out, allowing the signal that carries information about the test sample to be detected and processed.

Lingyu Hong and Kaushik Sengupta

Lingyu Hong, a graduate student in electrical engineering, and Kaushik Sengupta, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Princeton University are developing technology for use in a handheld diagnostic system for healthcare in resource-limited settings.

This ability to integrate optical elements with electronics inside a single silicon chip is enabling the team to build detection systems for both genetic material and proteins. Millions of photodetectors can already be crammed into smartphone cameras and Sengupta plans to put hundreds or even thousands of such sensors on the new chip to create a platform capable of testing many agents at once. In addition to being cheap and robust, this “lab-on-a-chip” will be user-friendly. Sengupta and his colleagues envision that the chips will be used in a portable device similar to a smartphone that can use an app to analyze the fluorescence data and display diagnosis results in a clear, simple format.

To make the device truly portable, it will be necessary to develop a small and lightweight apparatus to isolate proteins and genetic material from blood or other fluids, and Sengupta and his collaborators are working on this challenge. “The entire end-to-end system may take another couple of years to reach, but we’ve demonstrated the feasibility of the approach,” said Sengupta, who collaborates with Professor of Chemistry Haw Yang. “Princeton provides the kind of environment that makes it easy to reach out to faculty members across the campus and to work on creative endeavors that cut across traditional disciplines.”

The initial work on the chip was supported by Project X, a fund established through a donation from G. Lynn Shostack S’69 for the support of exploratory research. The project involvesgraduate students Lingyu Hong in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Hao Li in the Department of Chemistry, Postdoctoral Research Associate Simon McManus and undergraduate Victor Ying. Lingyu and Hao were awarded a Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship for 2015-16 for this work.

-By Takim Williams

The Hub: A new center opens its doors … to student entrepreneurship

The Hub


THE SOCIAL CAMPUS NETWORKING startup Friendsy began with a single campus network at Princeton and has since expanded to 230 campuses nationwide.

This June, Friendsy was one of the first startups to move into the University’s Entrepreneurial Hub, a new incubator space for faculty, students and alumni. Located in downtown Princeton, the Hub houses the Keller Center’s annual eLab Summer Accelerator Program — a launch pad for student startups — as well as an eLab Incubator program that enables students to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions during the academic year. The Hub also offers shared working space for startups founded by faculty, students and alumni, and serves as the center for Princeton’s entrepreneurship education programs.

“eLab has been tremendously helpful for our growth as a startup company,” said Michael Pinsky, one of Friendsy’s founders, who graduated from Princeton this year with a degree in psychology. “The ability to work with mentors in the field and use the working space at the Hub with what became a very large Friendsy team was incredibly valuable, and it is undoubtedly a major reason for our success.”

Now in its fourth year, the eLab program runs for 10 weeks in the summer and culminates in Demo Days, held in New York City and Princeton, at which the teams present their work to entrepreneurs, investors and innovators. The program has become an integral part of the University’s effort to assist students and faculty with pursuing new ventures.

The Hub was established in response to recommendations made by a committee set up to explore ways to expand entrepreneurship education and help University students, faculty and alumni advance their creative ideas and make important contributions to society.

Elab Summer Accelerator Program

Seven teams of students participated in the eLab Summer Accelerator Program at Princeton’s Entrepreneurial Hub this summer. From left to right: Kehinde Ope, a student at the University of Delaware, and Achille Tenkiang, a member of the Class of 2017 at Princeton University, have formed a startup called BLOC with Saidah Bishop, a student at Dartmouth College (fourth from left). Third from left is Diogo Adrados, Princeton Class of 2015, from the startup Rodeo. On the far right, Michael Pinsky, Princeton Class of 2015, is a co-founder of Friendsy.  PHOTO BY JILL FELDMAN

Mung Chiang, who chaired the committee, said the new space provides “an essential anchor” for a wide range of entrepreneurial activities at Princeton. The 10,000-squarefoot facility offers meeting rooms, offices and information technology support for startups sharing the co-working space. The Hub is also the home of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council, led by Chiang and established in July 2015 to coordinate entrepreneurship programs on campus.

“The University has taken an important initiative in creating space for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship education,” said Chiang, the Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical Engineering and director of the Keller Center.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2015, the Keller Center’s mission is to educate students as leaders in a technology-driven society by innovating education and fostering entrepreneurship, creativity and design. The center bridges disciplines to ensure that all students are prepared to put science and technology to use in solving critical societal challenges.–By John Sullivan

This year’s eLab teams include:
BLOC logoBLOC An online professional network for black collegians on the rise

clickstick Logo 6ClickStick Innovative dispensing technology with accurate dosage control for personal care, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products

Bodhi TreeBodhi Tree Systems An enterprise software system that facilitates the design and management of pharmaceutical trials

Friendsy LogoFriendsy A college-based social networking service that promotes friendships and relationships among members

KLOSKLOS Guitars A durable, affordable and comfortable carbon-fiber travel guitar

RodeoRodeo A mobile platform for users to browse and discover live events in their community

TeachMe_logoTeachMe A platform that connects college students to share knowledge, skills and experience with others in their community

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Energy and environment center opens its doors

Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment PHOTO BY DENISE APPLEWHITE

WITH CONSTRUCTION ESSENTIALLY COMPLETE, researchers are moving into the new home of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, a 129,000-square-foot complex dedicated to research and teaching in areas involving energy efficiency, sustainable sources of energy, and environmental protection and remediation.

Located adjacent to the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s “EQuad,” the building is organized around multiple gardens and two large towers. The building holds a classroom and teaching laboratories, office space, a lecture hall, conference rooms, and research labs, including “cleanrooms” that have ultra-low dust levels and shared-use labs that house some of the world’s most sophisticated imaging and analytical equipment.

Emily Carter, the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment and founding director of the center, described it as a “living laboratory, both as it was being built and upon occupancy.”

The Andlinger Center translates fundamental knowledge into practical solutions that enable sustainable energy production and the protection of the environment and global climate from energyrelated anthropogenic change. The center was founded in July 2008 through a gift from international business leader Gerhard R. Andlinger, Class of 1952.

–By John Sullivan

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