The analysis of proteins and small molecules for drug research and manufacturing involves slow and expensive testing. New processes that could speed up and enable high-sensitivity testing are needed.
Dr Ruizhi Wang’s expertise lies in the large-scale manufacturing of 2D materials – aka single-layer materials. He is a co-founder of The Hofmann Group spin out, HexagonFab. The company is using 2D crystalline materials to develop biosensors for medical applications.
The first sensor it has produced, called HelloProtein, will give drug development researchers the ability to characterise proteins and understand biomolecular interactions through a handheld device. The company says it is both faster and more reasonably priced than rivals operating in the same field.
Before HexagonFab, low-cost and large-scale
manufacturing of high-quality graphene was not possible. Only small amounts –
enough for research – were being made. The company’s ability to fabricate at
commercial-scale using chemical vapour deposition, along with related
atomically-thin materials, means that it can focus on generating very sensitive
and fast sensors.
HelloProtein is a field-effect transistor (FET) biosensor driven by graphene. Changes in the electrical charges in its environment affect the electrical properties of the graphene layer. This enables it to detect minute electrical charge changes allowing the detection of biomolecule-binding with high precision.
Dr Wang believes that such bioFET sensors could have a variety of other applications in the fields of medical diagnostics and industrial monitoring. The global market for drug development equipment is huge and by mid-2020 the company had already made £35,000 of sales.
2018 HexagonFab founded
2018 Merck’s Displaying Futures Award ($50,000 financial backing plus collaboration)
2018 Winner of Materials and Enabling Technologies category of Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies
2019 InnovateUK grant
2020 AMS corporate challenge winner
2020 First product sales
Visit their website: www.hexagonfab.com