PALO ALTO, Calif. Intel Corp. will attempt to leverage its chip-making prowess into the emerging field of biotechnology as part of a new R&D collaboration with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center announced Thursday (Oct 23).
Intel is building a Raman analyzer at the Seattle center to see if it can help detect early signs of the disease in the chemical structure of blood and other biological samples.Intel uses Raman spectroscopy to analyze chemical compositions during the chip fabrication process. By shining a laser beam at an object, molecules within the substance are stimulated to give off a spectrum that can be detected by sensors in a Raman spectrometer.
"The instrument beams lasers onto tiny medical samples, such as blood serum, to create images that reveal the chemical structure of molecules. The goal is to determine if this technology, previously used to detect microscopic imperfections on silicon chips, can also detect subtle traces of disease," said Andrew Berlin, lead researcher of Intel's Precision Biology program in a statement.
"Biologists have never before had such a method for studying the molecular structure of biology. It may lead to a new era of molecular diagnostics and improved methods of early disease detection," said Dr. Lee Hartwell, president of the center.
Intel first debuted its 12-person Precision Biology team in an R&D open house in March. "We are developing types of electrical and optical probes to interact with molecules and identify them. If we could find the molecular or optical signatures of diseases that could be a huge benefit to medicine," said Berlin.
At the event, Berlin showed advancements in 3-D microfluidic devices which could help isolate individual molecules from a blood sample as the first step to identifying them. "You need to be able to make sense out of what might be 100,000 molecules in a given sample," he said.
Berlin helped start research in microelectromechanical systems at Xerox PARC in the early 1990s and became Intel's first life sciences researcher two years ago. "We are looking at the intersection of biology, medicine and nanotechnology. This is a community that hasn't really formed yet," he said.