Professor Diao plans to develop a powerful new tool for broad spectrum biochemical detection at ultrahigh sensitivity by bridging molecular electronics, medicinal chemistry, and biochemical sensing for the first time. Biochemical sensing at ultrahigh sensitivity is critical to realizing personalized health monitoring and medical diagnosis by detecting molecular signatures of illness, as opposed to observing bodily symptoms. However, established analytical techniques rely on bulky, sophisticated instrumentation or expensive essays to attain high sensitivity and specificity. On the other hand, mammals utilize molecular-recognition-triggered electrical signals to detect biochemical cues. The development of miniaturized electronic devices for rapid broad-spectrum biochemical detection represents a new frontier in analytical chemistry and biomedical sciences. In recent years, conventional electronics have been intensely investigated for this purpose. However, they are severely limited in terms of materials selection and weak coupling between molecular recognition and electronic structure.
The novelty of Professor Diao’s approach lies in re-purposing medicinal compounds which already evolve high binding affinity and specificity with biomarkers as molecular electronics. This work will not only lead to the discovery of new electronic materials inspired by plant-derived semiconductors, but also usher electronic biochemical sensing into a new era of personalized health monitoring, prognosis, and diagnosis.