Better rapid testing and faster drug and vaccine development: Microfluidics is the key technology for fighting pandemics

30.06.2021

With international participation, this year's COMPAMED Innovation Forum was dedicated to the topic of "Microfluidics for mobile diagnostics and development of vaccines and drugs" and presented how microfluidic processes can help, for example, to better and faster solve the red-hot challenges of a global pandemic. 

The digital forum brought more than 120 interested participants and speakers into dialog with each other during a webinar and networking sessions. The corona pandemic is a current reminder of the importance of high-tech innovation in driving research and development quickly and effectively. The development of the new vaccines now available in the fight against COVID-19 at record speed was made possible due to these innovative processes. 

Dr. Holger Becker from microfluidic ChipShop explained that microfluidics plays a decisive role in currently sought-after molecular biological test methods such as PCR, antigen and antibody tests, and that it has the potential to offer important time advantages with regard to development speed. 

Microfluidic elements and structures offer enormous advantages in the manufacturing of diagnostic products

Luis Fernández from the Spanish company microLIQUID is a specialist in customized microfluidic elements and emphasized that these devices offer many advantages in development processes because they are inexpensive, suitable for high throughput and high automation, and offer improved sensitivity. 

Dr. Alexios Paul Tzannis from IMT Masks and Divisions from Switzerland explained challenges and opportunities of functional surfaces, e.g. for biosensors in microfluidic flow cells for diagnostics. Particularly promising is the combination of glass and a complex structure on or in the glass combined with new methods, which allows the production of new consumables for diagnostics and life sciences as well as scalable volume manufacturing. 

Jacques Pechdimaljian from France's Fluigent added that there is a large market for microfluidic products: from life science research to clinical research in human and veterinary medicine to industrial research, especially for point-of-care and point-of-use applications such as rapid testing. 

John Watson from British pump manufacturer TTP Ventus explained how users should select the right pump for a compact and mobile POC diagnostic system. The company's particularly compact disc pump, for example, is suitable for use in mobile PCR diagnostic equipment, the "gold standard" of diagnostics.

Key technologies enable accelerated development and optimized distribution of vaccines

How can the current problem of insufficient vaccine availability be solved, especially in light of the fact that the first "boosters" will soon be necessary? Christoph Wessendorf of memetis and Florian Siemenroth of Bartels Mikrotechnik are working together on solutions for miniaturizing active flow control to enable higher sensitivity and high specificity in test measurements, such as antibody status. Microfluidics could thus help to individually determine when follow-up vaccination is needed in order to distribute scarce MRNA vaccines as efficiently as possible.  

Dr. Gina Greco from Swiss sensor manufacturer Sensirion explained the role of innovative sensors that, in combination with microfluidics, provide the key technology that makes it possible to develop vaccines and other drugs within a year. Continuous optimization of laboratory equipment offers enormous potential for fast and reliable test results in drug and vaccine development.    

The COMPAMED Innovation Forum is organized by the IVAM Microtechnology Network and Messe Düsseldorf and addresses current medical technology challenges once a year. The dialog between experts, users as well as manufacturers, sheds light on innovations and provides an outlook on trend topics at COMPAMED, which takes place annually in Düsseldorf in the fall.