Ph.D. candidates Phillip Nadeau (EECS/MTL) and Mark Mimee (Microbiology) have won a Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship for their joint proposal: “BacMOS: Electronic bio-sensors using synthetic biological transducers.” The fellowship, sponsored by Qualcomm Inc is designed to "cultivate new and forward thinking ideas and continue to further research and development overall.” (https://www.qualcomm.com/invention/research/university-relations/innovation-fellowship)
The team, which also includes Phillip’s advisor, Professor Anantha Chandrakasan (EECS/MTL) and Mark’s advisor, Professor Timothy K Lu (EECS/BioE/RLE) proposed a device that could one day lead to new diagnostic tests for biomarkers in a small and low-power form-factor by combining silicon electronics with synthetic biological transducers.
The idea arose from a cross-pollination of two disjoint research domains at MIT. Without augmentation, silicon electronics can perform only basic biological measurements that do not generally include biomarker detection. On the other hand, genetically engineered systems can detect biochemicals, but lack the sophistication of modern signal processing. The proposal centers on marrying these two technologies, and the team is now working on a device to demonstrate the concept.
In all, 137 proposals were submitted from 18 schools across the US for the fellowship competition. The MIT team was one of 34 semi-finalists invited to visit Qualcomm in San Diego to present to a panel of judges from across Qualcomm’s major divisions. Nine finalist teams, including the MIT team, were each selected to receive a $100k fellowship.
Phillip and Mark wish to thank Qualcomm for supporting the research of Ph.D. students, and their advisors for the continued mentorship, and support that helped make this work possible.