Sinergia SNF Project

Innovative Enabling Micro-Nano-Bio-Technologies for Implantable Systems in Molecular Medicine and Personalized Therapy

Project Leader:
Sandro Carrara, Lecturer and Senior Scientist, EPFL-IC-LSI

Catherine Dehollain, Senior Scientist, EPFL-STI
(Wireless electronics, RFID-circuit design, low-power physiological sensing)

Fabio Grassi, Group Leader, Institute for Research in Biomedicine, T Cell Development
(Characterization of signal transduction pathways at different developmental stages of the murine T cell1)

Ursula von Mandac, Group Leader, Department of Obstetrics University Hospital Zurich
Pharmacology (Pharmacological topics of Obstetrics) using clinical and non clinical research methods

Project Goal:
A fully mature biochip system capable of continuous monitoring drugs and biomarkers in blood, or in sub-cutaneous districts would constitute a major breakthrough in molecular medicine for personalizing therapy of complex diseases. The aim of the present project is to undertake a multidisciplinary approach to substantially advance the state-of-the-art of implantable devices.

(A) Typical cages generally used in lab experiments with mice
(B) The new concept of innovative implantable biochip proposed by the project


To this end, the following specific aims will be pursued:

  • development of innovative sensors towards array drugs detection, including nanotechnology to improve sensor’s sensitivity and system level integration to improve sensor’s specificity,
  • implementation of micro-electronic technology to decrease chip size for implantation in experimental animals (mice) as well as for convenient chip remote powering and data transmission,
  • testing on an experimental model for a specific medical situation in which drugs toxicity and development of new therapies would benefit from the chip application,
  • investigation of biochemical enzymes-substrates pharmacokinetics to identify the best P450 isoforms over more than 3.000 possible to be integrated onto the biochip to assure the detection of those exogenous and endogenous compounds which are relevant for the considered medical application


The motivation for this project stems from pharmacological treatments with high risk side effects, e.g. toxicity of commonly used drugs, where direct monitoring of the patient’s drug metabolism could dramatically influence pharmacological choices since high variability on a patient-by-patient basis characterizes metabolic pathways, as demonstrated in the literature by the nortriptyline case. The social relevance of the project is on a better and more reliable diagnostics implantable system to be used also for personalized therapy and for new research in molecular medicine. The economical relevance of the project is in the pharmaceutical market. In 2008, some pharmaceutical Swiss industries gained a surplus while the Down Jones index lost more than 40% of its initial value. This means that pharmaceutics is one of the key markets of Switzerland, even in times of crisis. The development of a new chemical entity as a drug is a costly and time consuming process, requiring a mean amount of roughly 1000 MCHF and typically between 7 and 11 years, while drug patents expire after 15 years. Any technique which accelerates the process is highly desirable. Our fully-electronics implantable biochip for continuous drugs monitoring will provide a unique tool for industrial advancement in the field of drugs discovery and personalized therapy in Switzerland.