STTR Phase I: Silicon nanowire arrays for the sensitive detection and identification of lung cancer by a blood sample

Period of Performance: 12/15/2016 - 11/30/2017


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Advanced Silicon Group
173 Bedford Road
Lincoln, MA 01773
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Research Institution

University of Iowa
2 Gilmore Hall
Iowa City, IA 52242
Institution POC


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I project is the possibility to revolutionize the treatment of cancer through more sensitive and specific cancer biomarker detection. 1.66 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer in 2014 alone, of which 585,720 died. The sum of all health care costs in 2011 for cancer in the US was $88.7 billion. A low cost, less invasive, and more sensitive detector will allow earlier detection of cancer and thus lower the cost of treatment and increase survival rates. Higher sensitivity cancer detection will lead to early detection, enable targeted treatment, and save money and lives while improving quality of life. In addition, the knowledge learned from this grant can be applied to other sensors in which the nanowires are functionalized for detection of materials. These sensors could include sensors to support the Internet of Things, pollution monitoring, and ensuring high water quality. The proposed project will advance our knowledge of using nanowires as detectors. Nanowire sensors have a high surface area-to-volume ratio. Thus their detection limit is dramatically lowered and their sensitivity is increased relative to non-nanostructured sensors. This improvement is necessary for many biological assays. Others have made nanowire sensors and demonstrated high sensitivity. However, the fabrication techniques they use to make their sensors are expensive and slow. Thus, they are only able to get 1-10 nanowires per sensor and manufacturing throughput is low. This project will use a high-throughput and low-cost process, and that results in millions of nanowires per sensor. The nanowires will increase the surface area by over a thousand times thus allowing for more sensitive detection. Instead of using horizontal wires like the competition, the proposed sensor uses arrays of vertically aligned nanowires. The device design solves the typical challenges of contacting large arrays of nanowires and enables the measurement of both optical and electrical signals simultaneously. The proposed project will measure a commercially relevant biomarker for lung cancer. In addition, the investigators will detect two biomarkers on the same chip, thus demonstrating how the technology can be used to test multiple biomarkers on the same chip.