Draper Lab: a leader in microfluidics

Intracochlear Drug Delivery (Image credit: draper.com)

Perched on the edge of MIT’s campus, the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory may not get the name recognition of neighboring MIT or Harvard, but it’s a leader in MEMS and microfluidics research. Originally part of MIT, Draper is now an independent, non-profit research organization with its own Biomedical Engineering Center. Many of the recent MEMS projects highlighted on the Draper site involve biomedical applications (most links below lead to full-text papers):

2003: Draper licenses its MicroCANARY technology to a Boston company,BioScale. MicroCanary uses microfluidics and sensor technology for pathogen detection; it can detect the pathogenic strain of E. coli bacteria against a background of non-pathogenic varieties.

2004: Draper reports on the development of a novel MEMS-based system for renal replacement that incorporates fractal microvascular network designs and micromolded flow chambers. This microfabricated device could provide a smaller, less invasive and less expensive therapy for ESRD (End-Stage Renal Disease).

2005: Researchers from Draper and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) report on the development of a wearable vestibular prosthesis – enabled by a combination of MEMS sensors and small electronics – which could help people suffering from chronic imbalance. This device could be used as a temporary aid during recovery from ablative inner-ear surgery, a permanent prosthesis for the elderly who are prone to falls, and also benefit Meniere’s disease patients.

2006: Draper researchers report on the development of a MEMS-based, 2-axis micromirror endoscopic device which could be used to rapidly image tissue in three dimensions.

Draper and the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary (MEEI) report on the development of a fully implantable MEMS-based device for the delivery of drugs to the inner ear; Draper is awarded a Bioengineering Research Partnership by the National Institutes of Health for the development of implantable drug delivery systems for the treatment of inner ear disorders.

2008: Draper researchers, in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School and Boston University, develop a microfluidic device to pump blood out of the body, clear it of infectious agents, and deliver it back to the body. This device could help remove the pathogens that trigger septic shock. The Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology awards a large grant toward further developing this technology.