In the beginning of 2018, I was approached by Sharon Tammer (MinacNed) to head the programme committee of the 13th International MicroNanoConference. I accepted promptly, as my personal research interest and focus is on designing and developing analytical detection methodologies or technologies in micro-fluidics platforms. Moreover, having managed a number of public-private research projects, I felt very much committed to set-up an interdisciplinary programme with ample opportunities for “cross talk”. As the preparation period is coming to its end and the final program is shortly to be completed, I would like to take the opportunity to exemplify the basic approaches which underlie the final programme.
My research group at the University of Maastricht is designing and developing screening platforms, introducing on- and in-line molecular readouts in “flow-chemistry” and ‘Organ-on-the-Chip”. It is still a rather underestimated area, and in some cases impropriate analytical technologies hamper the validation of many ‘micro-fluidics” methodologies. Hence, in order to create breakthroughs in these research areas, advanced sensing technologies are fundamental. On the other hand, applying validated, selective, sensitive and above all “universal” measurements is still a scientific challenge. This is especially true when miniaturization is a key requirement. This personal research focus, is a result of my background as researcher in both pharmaceutical and chemical industry, with much attention to so-called “process analytical tools”.
As a result, the 13th version of the iMNC is very much dealing with bringing researchers from academia, end users and technology manufactures together, linking market demands with present and future available solutions. In short, the programme encompasses presentations of all stakeholders having a position along the complete innovation value chain. A rather logic second theme for the two-day meeting is interdisciplinarity, and bringing physicists, chemists, biologists and engineers together creating maximal energy. The four program lines, ‘micro-fluidics’, ‘Organ-on-the-chip’, ‘Biosensing’ and ‘Functional Surfaces’ are all disciplines with ought to have a high level of synergy. As an example, in OotC methodologies a basic understanding of micro-fluidics is important to create the “perfect” environment for the cellular system. To prove the cellular wellbeing, biosensors are expected to play a crucial role in assessing their viability, by the real-time measurement of validated molecular markers. The surface characteristics on which the cells are ‘immobilized’ are well known to high influence their ‘performance”, an aspect to consider. I therefore sincerely hope the 13th iMNC meeting will be a success, in creating an environment in which new interdisciplinary collaborations are initiated, students are exchanged between educational institutions and industry, and ultimately when ‘cross-talk’ leads to new lessons learned.