Imec Scientist Awarded ERC Starting Grant To Develop Ultra-Small Microscopes


Imec, the
world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital
technologies, announces that Niels Verellen, one of its young scientists, has
been awarded an ERC Starting Grant. The grant of 1.5 million euros (for 5
years) will be used to enable high-resolution, fast, robust, zero-maintenance,
inexpensive and ultra-compact microscopy technology based on on-chip photonics
and CMOS image sensors. The technology paves the way for multiple applications
of cell imaging in life sciences, biology, and medicine and compact,
cost-effective DNA sequencing instruments.

Microscopy is an indispensable tool in biology and
medicine that has fueled many breakthroughs. Recently the world of microscopy
has witnessed a true revolution in terms of increased resolution of fluorescent
imaging techniques, including a Nobel Prize in 2014. Yet, these techniques
remain largely locked-up in specialized laboratories as they require bulky, expensive
instrumentation and highly skilled operators.

The next big push in microscopy with a large societal
impact will come from extremely compact and robust optical systems that will
make high-resolution microscopy highly accessible and as such facilitate the
diagnosis and treatment of diseases or disorders caused by problems at the cell
or molecular level, such as meningitis, malaria, diabetes, cancer, and
Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, it will pave the way to DNA analysis as a more
standard procedure, not only for the diagnosis of genomic disorders or in
forensics, but also in cancer treatment, follow-up of transplants, the
microbiome, pre-natal tests, and even agriculture, and archeology.