Nanocomposite electrodes for clinical diagnostics

Dr. Marc Zinggeler with printed PEPS electrodes in the CSEM cleanroom in Basel. (Image: CSEM)

An interdisciplinary team of researchers in the Nano Argovia project PEPS are developing a novel diagnostic device for particular biomarkers that is designed for use in point-of-care testing (POCT). Point-of-care testing refers to diagnostic testing methods that do not require a specialized medical laboratory, such as the now familiar Coronavirus rapid tests and blood sugar monitoring for patients with diabetes.

Several advantages
POC testing not only allows patients to monitor relevant markers independently in their own homes, it also provides medical staff with fast, easily administered tests that lead to safe and more efficient treatments. In areas where staff have limited access to specialized diagnostic facilities, these types of POC tests, which do not require additional technical equipment, have enormous potential to offer.

The team, which includes researchers from CSEM Muttenz, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, and MOMM Diagnostics (Basel) supervised by Dr. Marc Zinggeler (CSEM Muttenz), is now developing a digital POC device equipped with an electrochemical sensor designed to detect specific protein biomarkers. These biomarkers serve as indicators of different diseases, such as pre-eclampsia, a complication in pregnancy once referred to as “pregnancy poisoning.” Young start-up MOMM Diagnostics, founded by former nano science student Dr. Mathias Wipf, specializes in diagnosing this disorder, which poses risks for both mother and child.

“The PEPS nanocomposite electrodes blend high electrical conductivity with superior antifouling properties. This combination could be the key to producing highly sensitive electrochemical POC tests.”

Dr. Mathias Wipf, founder and CEO of MOMM Diagnostics


Close-up of electrodes (Image: CSEM)

Mixture of materials
The novel aspect of the approach selected for the PEPS project is the team’s plan to use affordably manufactured, conductive nanocomposite electrodes made from a combination of carbon nanotubes and a hydrophilic polymer. This mixture of materials gives the electrodes the outstanding conductivity needed to generate electrochemical readouts during testing. In addition, the material demonstrates remarkable antifouling properties which effectively protect the sensing surfaces from contamination by non-specific adsorption processes in the biological samples (such as blood serum).

Initially, the team will concentrate on refining the nanocomposite electrodes that were produced as part of their preliminary work. Afterwards, they plan to create a platform for demonstrating the analysis of clinically relevant biomarkers. Once they have completed this phase in the first year, the team of scientists plans to integrate a microfluidic platform and finalize their POC test.

Throughout their research, the members of the PEPS team – project leader Dr. Marc Zinggeler and industry partner Dr. Mathias Wipf, Dr. Silvia Generelli (CSEM Landquart), and Prof. Daniel Gygax (FHNW Muttenz) – will be exploring the potential of expanding their sensor manufacturing operation for high volume production so that their platform can be manufactured at industrial scale in the future.

Additional information

MOMM Diagnostics
School of Life Sciences (FHNW)