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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.