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Solid-State Nanopore-based Quantification of Low-Abundance Biomarkers


Generating solutions




2015 Disruptive Innovation in Genomics Competition

Genome Centre(s)



Project Leader(s)

Fiscal Year Project Launched


Project Description

Phase 1 Project

Many illnesses, such as cancer or cardiovascular disease, leave physical evidence in our bodies known as biomarkers in the form of slight changes to our DNA or tiny increases in the presence of certain proteins. Spotting these biomarkers early would allow us to recognize illness early, or even before it starts, making it possible to begin treatment with personalized, targeted therapy, or even prevent the disease entirely. The problem is that current methods of identifying biomarkers are generally time-consuming and expensive and do not have the sensitivity to pick up biomarkers that occur in extremely low concentrations.

Solid-state nanopore-based devices, which measure electrical current produced when a saline solution passes through a nanopore (an extremely small hole) under applied voltage, have long been seen as a possible solution to these problems. Each time an individual biological molecule (like protein or DNA) passes through the pore, it can be accurately identified by the amount of current it blocks, in much the way that a person might identify an object from the shadow it casts in the beam of a flashlight. Unfortunately, these nanopore devices are too expensive for widespread use.

Dr. Tabard-Cossa’s laboratory has pioneered a technique to fabricate nanopore devices much more rapidly and at substantially lower cost than the present-day state-of-the-art technology, so as to enable the development of solid-state nanopore devices integrated into a disposable cartridge within compact platforms offering comprehensive sample-in, answer-out capability. The use of these devices will revolutionize genomics research and patient healthcare, enabling validation of newly identified biomarkers and development of rapid, cost-effective diagnostic tests. This project will help to establish proof of principle ultra sensitive nanopore-based digital immunoassays, positioning the lab to develop a point-of-care prototype that can be used in the lab and the clinic, resulting in significant economic and health benefits for Canada.