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/R&D for life sciences applications

R&D for life sciences applications


Developing an early concept into a qualified product is a very complex and risky process. To maximize success, we work with strong, multi-disciplinary teams of world-class scientists with expertise in the fields of physics, chemistry, biochemistry, electronics, nanotechnology, optics and photonics, imaging, software and algorithms, electronics design, and process integration and manufacturing.

Our solutions

Contracted R&D projects are fine-tuned to your needs:

  • Starting from yours or 3rd-party IP, we assist with method evaluation.
  • Imec’s own broad IP portfolio is accessible to our customers through an attractive licensing scheme.
  • We develop new IP together with our partners.
  • We assist in maturing technologies and fine-tuning specifications in alignment with your application or product needs.
  • We are flexible in collaborating with our customers’ internal R&D departments and foster the co-creation of new ideas and IP.
  • We can develop prototypes and test systems at imec, or we can make the systems available to our customers for testing.
  • We have imec’s full gamut of expertise, metrology and infrastructure in-house.
  • We offer a flexible, stage-gated project structure with financial de-risking, including proof-of-concept, feasibility, prototyping, volume manufacturing and testing.
  • We provide high-quality scientific reports, flexible collaborations, and a product-oriented mindset.
  • We are experienced in collaborations with world-class global corporations and R&D teams, and we can combine flexibility you need for the success of an R&D project with the collaboration standards that are expected in life sciences industries.

Life sciences R&D projects

The chips described below are just a few examples that illustrate what imec and integrated chip technology can bring to your application.

Biosensors on chip

Fast, simultaneous and accurate screening of hundreds of biomarkers.

Imec develops biosensing chips with up to 100 sensors per mm2 - sensors for fast and accurate detection of cells, DNA, small molecules, antibodies, gases, etc., useful in diagnostics, sequencing and drug screening. This extreme miniaturization is made possible thanks to the use of powerful CMOS chip technology with on-chip electrical and photonic sensors and microfluidics.

Key benefits

  • Multiplexing: multiple biomarkers or DNA sequences are measured simultaneously with 100 sensors per mm2.
  • Fast: the technology allows fast measurements of binding events with immediate sample-to-data readout capability.
  • Small reagent volumes: with integrated microfluidics, samples can be limited to <1μL.
  • Accurate: low-noise and online measurement of analytes.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on chip

Accurate in-vitro molecular diagnostic tests (PCR) in a compact format within a couple of minutes. Imec develops micro-PCR and droplet PCR, enabling you to perform a PCR-based diagnosis in 3 minutes.

Key benefits

  • Your assay, just smaller and faster: performs full PCR analysis from whole blood in less than 10 minutes.
  • Extreme miniaturization and parallelism: performs PCR on chip using silicon microfluidics.
  • Full workflow via on-chip integration of filters, mixers, lysis, extraction, enrichment and droplet handling.
  • Results at your fingertips: sample-to-answer in one chip.

High-throughput cytometry and cell sorting (FACS)

High-throughput cytometry in a chip-based, compact, disposable device for point-of-care applications, early cancer diagnostics and cell manufacturing.

Imec has developed a breakthrough cell sorter with integrated on-chip cell characterization. It enables the sorting of blood cells in minutes, reporting the result to point-of-care applications and early cancer diagnostics.

Key benefits

  • Compatible with autoclave and X-ray sterilization: sorting is based on bubble-jet technology and contains no mechanically moving parts.
  • Accurate: fluorescent markers and morphology can be combined to produce more precise results. Cells are alive for downstream assays.
  • Fast: sorting speeds of up to 20 million cells per minute. Sorts 5,000 cells per second and per channel, with hundreds of channels on a single chip
  • Compact: the smart chip disposable is the size of a microscopy slide, making it suitable for point-of-care applications.

Neural probes and implantable sensors

Minimally invasive, implantable and extremely accurate, for long-term neural recordings and precise stimulation of nerves.

Imec has developed implantable microsystems with advanced capabilities to stimulate, detect, process and interpret neural data at the cellular level. Our probes can be used for R&D and to treat neurological and motor disorders.

Key benefits

  • Minimally invasive: minimal footprint, biocompatible, enabling long-term measurements.
  • High-density: 428 electrodes and 64 active channels on one ultra-thin probe for simultaneous read-out of large populations of neurons. Photonic and microfluidic additions can be made to the probe.
  • High-quality signals: amplification on chip to enable low-noise measurements (noise level of 5μ VRMS).

Biophotonics, imaging and spectroscopy on chip

On-chip spectrometers that outperform conventional benchtop RAMAN spectrometers and lens-free microscopes that outperform conventional microscopes, at a fraction of the size and cost.

Imec leverages its expertise in photonic technologies to develop solutions for the identificatino of cells and tissues label-free, at low cost, in high resolution and with high throughput and an extremely wide field-of-view, hyperspectral medical imaging to identify cells during operations, non-invasive, non-destructive, continuous monitoring in life science applications, large-area flexible x-ray imaging solutions, and more.

Key benefits

  • Compact: no mechanical parts, no bulky optics required.
  • Non-invasive, non-destructive.
  • Continuous monitoring of live samples.
  • Extreme integration enabling multiple sensing modes including Raman, UV-VIS-NIR, photo-acoustics, hyperspectral, etc.

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