A move to point-of-need
Modern healthcare relies increasingly on the decentralization of routine processes. This speeds up access to care, reduces burden on centralized services and provides care to those without access to advanced facilities.
Furthermore, accessible testing for diagnostics and treatment monitoring is paving the way for a more personalized approach to medicine, improving outcomes and reducing the time, cost and distress involved in unnecessary treatments.
This trend is driving the development of point of need instrumentation using miniaturized, cost-effective components for bench-top instruments and consumable cartridges. These instruments need to be able to automate complex processes in miniature to provide practitioners with relevant information with minimum effort.
Streamlining drug discovery and development
As the recent pandemic has highlighted only too starkly there is, now more than ever, a need to streamline drug development timelines to respond to urgent needs for new drugs. The barriers are technical and regulatory as well as ethical. Complexity is increasing on all fronts, development timelines and costs can be huge and there is heightened pressure to reduce the use of animals in trials.
Certain fields stand to gain much through automation. Cell culture, tissue engineering, DNA synthesis, genomics and proteomics in particular are held back by overreliance on time-intensive batch processes.
The need is therefore for systems that can help streamline the discovery and development of new drugs through highly automated, high-throughput and/or parallelized processes. In this, microsystems have a role to play in creating scalable components with integrated functionality for high-throughput, intelligent systems.
Personalized, wearable and implantable: Next generation applications
The increasing sophistication of devices for medical diagnostics, monitoring and treatment is driving developments in miniaturized devices that can be worn or even implanted in the body. Such close synergy between device and patient is enabling unmatched levels of responsiveness and personalization in interventions.
In turn, these devices are underpinned by highly sophisticated miniaturized components that integrate different functionalities – mechanical, fluidic, electrical – all in tiny, robust and user-friendly packages.