A PhotonDelta roadmap for integrated photonics-enabled bio-sensing is coming

06 May 2020

PhotonDelta and its partners have initiated projects to develop bio-sensors, based on integrated photonics. A bio-sensor detects the presence or concentration of specific biomolecules, microorganisms or other biological analytes. Such a sensor is critical to bringing the detection of viruses, cancer or other diseases to the point of care of a patient at an early stage.

PhotonDelta works on an integrated photonics-based roadmap for bio-sensing, so that ongoing and future projects can to be imbedded into the bigger picture on the future of bio-sensing. This roadmap is based on the ground work laid down by the TU Eindhoven and the University of Twente. It will be drawn up with all the cluster partners of PhotonDelta, as well as with other relevant partners academic and industrial partners and lead customers . This will be coordinated by Maarten Buijs, who recently joined the team of PhotonDelta. In this news item we want to give you a short introduction to Maarten and his ambition with regards to this roadmap.

Before we go into depth on the subject of bio-sensing and integrated photonics, who is Maarten Buijs as a person?

I consider myself to be a child of what is now called Brainport. I started my career at the Philips Natlab in the 90’s. It was a privilege to work in a place that significantly contributed to a lot that we take for granted these days in a wide range of electronics applications. I myself was involved in glass science, blue laser physics, fluid mechanics and electron optics. After 14 years, I decided to leave Philips and (industrial) research because I wanted to be involved in bringing innovations successfully to market. I did this in R&D leadership roles at several companies that one way or another were spun out of Philips: FEI (electron microscopes; now part of Thermo Fischer Scientific), ASML (lithography machines) and Elekta (cancer irradiation equipment). Most recently I was responsible for R&D at Moba, the main producer of egg sorting equipment from Barneveld. In all of these jobs, I tremendously enjoyed working with teams of highly motivated professionals to realize cutting-edge innovative products which brought meaningful value to real customers.

Recently, you connected with PhotonDelta and got to know our ambition to grow an ecosystem on integrated photonics in the Netherlands. What excites you and makes you part of our mission?

As a child of Brainport, one stays abreast of developments in the total ecosystem. I was aware of the importance of integrated photonics, as a parallel to the earlier revolutionary developments in integrated electronics. And through former colleagues and advisory roles I have, I was well aware of all the promising initiatives happening in the Netherlands in this area, as well as of the orchestrating role of PhotonDelta. So having the opportunity to contribute on an application which is brought to the front by the Covid-19 pandemic, presents an extremely exciting chance to do something meaningful with my experience.

Building a national program for PIC-based bio-sensing in general and virus sensing in particular.

The overall goal of your effort is to build a national program for PIC-based bio-sensing in general and virus sensing in particular. Recently, we supported and funded a project of SurfiX, Qurin and Lionix International that aims to detect COVID-19 in a fast and accurate way with the help of bio-sensors. But bio-sensing has more potential for future applications. How do you see this potential? 

At this moment, my view is still that of an outsider, who feels that cost-effective and easy-to-use unambiguous detection of a wide range of characteristic bio-molecules (coming from viruses, bacteria, diseases,..) close to a patient should be a no-brainer for a large number of companies and financiers in the health care sector. The fact that this is not yet ubiquitous means that there must be significant hurdles, which need to be overcome to unlock that potential. The work of setting up the roadmap for PIC bio-sensing is to analyse these hurdles in detail and chart the road to remove them. 

What is the horizon of the roadmap?  

In principle, the roadmap needs to have global validity so to speak, which means that a priori there is no need to focus on the situation in a specific country. However, market adoption is strongly determined by national regulatory and reimbursement constraints. That aspect must be taken into account, f.i. by focusing first on the local (Dutch) market and the US as leading in market size and state-of-the-art. And of course, the purpose of the roadmap is to facilitate the Dutch PIC ecosystem to leverage its strengths for significant growth in this area.

In order to map the roadmap, you will talk to key players in the current field of integrated photonics-enabled bio-sensing. What is your impression of this field at the moment?

In order to map the roadmap, you will talk to key players in the current field of integrated photonics-enabled bio-sensing. What is your impression of this field at the moment? 
My impression is that there is a strong technology and knowledge base to start from here in the Netherlands and that people are very eager to get this going. That being said, it will be important to realize a strong involvement from complementary parties, like those close to the patient (diagnostic labs, insurers, hospitals & specialists), pharmaceutical companies, sensor companies, medtech companies and the like. I am very happy that a company like AMS already expressed its intent to participate in the roadmapping. Only then can the complete value chain be mapped out in relation to tangible benefits for patients and society.

If people and organizations want to contribute to this roadmap with their knowledge, vision and activities on biosensing, how can they join? 

They can send me an email and we will take it from there! 

– – – Update – – –

In July 2021, PhotonDelta launched its roadmap for the use of integrated photonics for biosensing. The roadmap provides an overview of the different trends in the biosensing market and list the opportunities for integrated photonics technology. Download the roadmap of Integrated Photonics for Biosensing below.