Council to honor NJIT SmartPin

November 05, 2007

A liquid dispensing system useful for identifying medical woes ranging from cancer to bird flu will garner an award for two NJ inventors this week. The newly-patented device will offer small and medium-sized researchers a way to test fluids cheaply, efficiently and precisely. It will also allow them a chance, at last, to analyze genes, screen for hereditary or pathogenic diseases, analyze drugs and view the characteristics of protein.

The researchers Timothy Chang, electrical and computer engineering professor at NJIT, and Peter Tolias, executive director, Institute of Genomic Medicine at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, will be honored Nov. 7, 2007, by the Research and Development Council of New Jersey for their patent to develop this new system.

The duo number among more than a dozen patent holders representing industry and academe in New Jersey to be honored at the council's annual Thomas Alva Edison Awards dinner Nov. 7, 2007 at 6:30 p.m. at Dolce, a restaurant at 300 North Maple Ave., Basking Ridge. (ATTENTION EDITORS: For more information about interviews or to attend the event, call Sheryl Weinstein at 973-596-3433.)

"Using our invention, these smaller firms can carry out a range of genomic and/or chemical analyses rapidly and at a low cost," said Chang. These factors are significant as these labs need no longer rely on expensive equipment and test materials or wait for the turn-around-time of off-site processing.

This is especially crucial for detecting emerging diseases such as bird flu for which quick actions must be taken. It is further anticipated that this invention will enable under-developed or developing countries to improve their disease detection and diagnostic capabilities.

"This invention should help advance medical research, while lowering the cost of healthcare in the long term," said Chang.

Central to the patent is Chang's active self-sensing SmartPin, which uses tiny embedded electronic sensors to sense pin-to-target distance, dispense volume, control liquid spin-off as well as the quality of dispensation.

"The challenge is always to produce a higher yield of the smallest possible uniform spots to accommodate large test samples and improve reliability," said Chang. The size of the SmartPin droplet is now less than 60 microns--about half the thickness of a typical human hair.

"There are more benefits," said Chang. "All aspects of dispensing and detection are done without contaminating the target surface with a foreign element. The invention is flexible, reliable, and not as costly to produce because it is so small and easy to manufacture. Down the road, we should be able to knock out in production what are essentially tiny bio-hazard chips. The chips can be readily deployed in battlefields, population centers, and transportation hubs for detection and identification of bio-hazards and bio-warfare."

The development of SmartPin was supported by a three-year $634,000 grant (active through 2007) from the National Science Foundation, plus equipment donations from Genomic Solutions, a division of Harvard Bioscience, and Kearfott Corp.

The patent "Delivery of Metered Amounts of Liquid Materials" relates to the mini-revolution happening today in the sciences in which automation and high-speed computing has opened economic doors.
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NJIT, New Jersey's science and technology university, at the edge in knowledge, enrolls more than 8,000 students in bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in 92 degree programs offered by six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College and College of Computing Sciences. NJIT is renowned for expertise in architecture, applied mathematics, wireless communications and networking, solar physics, advanced engineered particulate materials, nanotechnology, neural engineering and e-learning. In 2006, Princeton Review named NJIT among the nation's top 25 campuses for technology and top 150 for best value. U.S. News & World Report's 2007 Annual Guide to America's Best Colleges ranked NJIT in the top tier of national research universities.

New Jersey Institute of Technology

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