CADMIM goals will be achieved via three coordinated basic and applied research thrust areas:

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(1) “Manufacturable” processes and materials: Many materials currently being used for microfluidic devices are not suitable for large scale production. Fortunately, several manufacturable processes have yet to be explored for the production of low-cost microfluidic chips. Automated roll-to-roll methods for tape-based plastic hot embossing, paper printing, and thin-film metal lamination (i.e. flexible circuit technology), commonly used in consumer products, can all be adapted for “lab-on-a-chip” production. Also, these processes can be merged to create a new class of mass-produced diagnostic devices.

(2) Sample Processing and Detection: While these have been issues in the microfluidics field for many years, no group has attempted to jointly address them in the context of mass-produced, low-cost/disposable, easy-to-use diagnostics. Innovation in sample filtering, constituent enrichment and separation, on-chip reagent storage, and fluidic functions (metering, mixing, transport, etc.) in low-cost manufacturable biochips are some of the critical aspects for self-contained labs-on-a-chip. Innovation must also occur at the assay and detection level, such as the development of simplified cellular and molecular assays, tests that implement different transduction mechanisms (e.g. optical, mechanical, magnetic), and probes specifically designed to enable cheap disposable microfluidic platforms with more complex functions.

(3) Integration and control systems: Integration encompasses output from Thrust 1 and 2, namely the combined basic science and implementation of sensing, analysis, and detection in manufacturable biochips. This thrust also includes the development of interfaces to the real world — once results are available they need to be managed and communicated. Options include a visual readout (such as a color change on the chip that can be read by the naked eye or digitally photographed and uploaded to the internet), or an electrical signal that can be interfaced to a smart phone or transmitted via a USB interface to a laptop computer. This thrust also embraces the task of on-command, programmable multiplexed diagnostics for which intelligence is incorporated onto the biochips.

The three thrust areas are intertwined, and the ultimate challenge is to innovate in all these areas simultaneously to refine on-chip functions, ensure compatibility and connectivity, integrate intelligence and communication, anticipate, overcome or circumvent bottlenecks, and create high capability, self-contained, manufacturable microdevices. Furthermore, new design methodologies and tools will need to be developed no only to support this type of innovation, but also to allow users outside the center to easily design and fabricate scalable diagnostic labs-on-a-chip.

This is a fresh approach to microfluidic biochip development, targeting in advance a dramatic reduction in cost, with equal or superior performance to lab-based functionality, allowing low-cost manufacture and widespread deployment of biomedical microdevices.