Sensors go Nano

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Developing a nano sensor that detects molecules of glucose. A University of Strathclyde chemistry department project, funded by the EPSRC’s Pathways to Impact Programme, explores the potential commercial applications in the battle against diabetes.

An easy-to-use nano sensor with the ability to detect blood sugar levels could become a major weapon in the battle against the global diabetes epidemic. The scope of this EPSRC funded project is to evaluate the intellectual property landscape for such a sensor, with a view to filing a patent application.

The sensor could be used as an alternative technology for testing glucose, for example as a nano sensor implanted in the skin. Such an application would be transformational in the lives of patients who need to draw blood several times a day to test their sugar levels. It could also have applications as an ‘early warning’ prevention system for impending diabetes.

It might be possible to use nano sensors implanted under the skin, which can then control diabetes by releasing tiny amounts of insulin.

Professor Duncan Graham, who is leading the team, says: “We know that the nano sensor to detect glucose works. We now have to find out if it is a good use of our time developing this commercially.”

“We can look at the scientific literature and see what has been published.  We can see what is out there on the commercial horizon from the IP landscape and property development pipeline. Obviously, we don’t want to replicate something that is already in existence.”

Prof Graham says that with the external help of former University of Strathclyde scientist and commercialisation expert Dr David Lightbody, extra resources have been set aside to explore the landscape.

“The funding from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Science Research Council is vital to make this kind of commercial assessment. We need to see what is currently being commercialised, identify the problems with the existing technology, and where our sensor can fill a role. We’ve identified the IP potential for us.”

Prof Graham says this is an area of scientific research already attracting international commercial interest with Strathclyde academics recognised as having specialist expertise in the sphere of glucose chemistry. The project is being carried out in collaboration with King’s College NHS Foundation Trust in London.

A nano sensor could become an exciting breakthrough with worldwide commercial applications – similar to pregnancy testing kits. It is highly likely that leading diagnostic businesses would be interested in licensing such a technology.